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County Executive Q&A Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

County Executive Q&A

Join County Executive Ed Long at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27 as he answers questions about the state of the county, the budget and other topics.

Edward Long : Good morning! I want to welcome you to our online chat session. I look forward to your questions and ideas. Let's get started.

Anonymous User : What is Sequestration and how is it going to impact the county? I've been hearing a lot about it on the news.

Edward Long : Sequestration is the automatic across-the-board reduction to federal government spending of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Sequestration will begin on January 1, 2013, if Congress fails to enact its own  plan to reduce the federal deficit.  In FY 2013,  the sequester would reduce spending by approximately $109 billion, to be split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary spending including Medicare. 

Fortunately, other programs that provide a safety net to our poorest residents would not be cut such as Social Security, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Even so, a federal Office of Management and Budget report states that the cuts would be “deeply destructive” to national security and core government functions.    

It is unclear at this time what this potential reduction in spending growth would mean for specific programs of interest to Fairfax County.  No detailed impact analysis has been done because there are still too many unknowns at this time.  There is a potential impact on our local tax base from the impact of sequestration on county businesses.  Our county revenues and programs could also be affected by state reductions made as a result of sequestration. 

Fairfax County’s continued strong fiscal management and low overall debt burden bring stability during these uncertain national economic times.  The County has a strong history of taking decisive actions to meet financial obligations.  We have set aside a reserve in the current year’s budget to help us deal with sequestration, and we will continue to stay informed about this and other issues that could possibly impact the County’s revenues and programs.

Thom in Annandale : Mr. Long: No organization is perfect nor do I expect perfection. In your time as county executive, what are the two or three things that you've discovered need the most improvement within the government and how do you plan to fix them?

Edward Long : I'm very pleased to be serving as Fairfax County Executive and leading Team Fairfax. Fairfax County staff and programs are outstanding, however, there is always room for improvement in these changing economic times. Two of the early items I have focused on include: 1. The changing financial situation. Beginning with the carryover review, we have implemented a multi-year budget process to consider the long-term impact of short-term budget actions. When I present my budget in February of 2013 we will be presenting information for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. 2. Succession planning. Staff is currently working on a model to help better prepare our workforce to be competitive for future leadership opportunities as we begin to feel the impact of the baby boom retirements. I anticipate that our new model will be presented later this fall.

Peter Gibbons : Executive Long, Have you ever thought for Halloween you could go as one of the "Bobs" from Office Space? Just a free suggestion. Peter

Edward Long : Selecting a Halloween costume is always a challenge for me. Thanks for your suggestion, I'll take it under consideration.

Anonymous User : At this time next year, do you see the county in a lot of trouble financially? What should we do to prepare?

Edward Long : Over 60% of the county's revenue comes from residential and commercial real estate and we are very concerned about the impact of sequestration and the overall economic stagnation on our community. Until the federal government takes action sometime next year, much uncertainty remains. Once action is taken by the federal government, I feel confident that our economic situation will stabilize and our business community will continue its strong performance and we will see the stable growth that this county has always experienced.  

Anonymous User : I live near Tysons Corner and know that it is being transformed over the next few years, but I want to know when everything is going to be done and what exactly is changing.

Edward Long :

Tysons Corner will be transformed into a walkable, green urban center based on an updated land use plan and zoning ordinance approved in June 2010 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  The plan envisions Tysons as home to up to 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs by the year 2050. It will become a 24-hour urban center where people live, work and play — instead of a sprawling suburban office park.

Because the plan was designed to take advantage of the four new Metro stations coming to Tysons in 2013, 75 percent of future growth will be within a half mile of these stations. Many offices and homes will be a three to six minute walk from the stations, allowing people to get around on foot, bicycle, bus or Metro. The plan is built on transit-oriented development principles; by building homes, stores and offices near transit, car trips can be dramatically reduced.   The plan also encourages green building, affordable housing and open space. 

A number of zoning and land use and development applications have been submitted for projects in Tysons. This week, the Board approved the Capital One expansion rezoning.  Capital One is one of the first major landowners to be granted zoning approval under the amended plan for Tysons and it represents significant progress in the development of Tysons Corner.

The Capital One expansion project includes over $63 million in transportation improvements, a pedestrian-oriented design, and park spaces. When completed, the project will frame the existing Capital One 14-story headquarters building with a mix of high-rise office, residential, and hotel buildings within easy walking distance of one of the new Metro stations.

As a long-time county employee and resident, I am excited to see this transformation of the county's downtown area.

Current information about the Tysons transformation is available online:

Anonymous User : With all the discussion nationwide about public pensions has the county considered changing our system so that there is a ceiling to what you can earn in retirement, a cap, say $80,000 and then index that number to inflation or the CPI or wage index. It seems like a simply solution that will maintain our pension system but keep costs down, a win-win.

Edward Long :

Fairfax County recently contracted with AON Hewitt and the PRM Consulting Group for a comprehensive review of our three retirement systems: the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS), the Police Officers Retirement System (PORS) and the Uniformed Retirement System (URS).  The study findings concluded that, given the important role of total compensation in attracting and retaining talent in a competitive labor market, the basic structure of the County’s systems continues to make sense.  The study did, however, recommend changes for newly-hired employees, all of which were adopted by the Board of Supervisors on September 11, 2012.  Specifically:

• The minimum retirement age for members of ERS was raised from 50 to 55.

• The total of age plus eligibility service required for normal retirement was raised from 80 to 85 for members of ERS.

• For members of all three systems, the use of unused sick leave for determining retirement eligibility and annuity calculations was capped at 2,080 hours.

• The pre-Social Security supplement was eliminated from Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) accounts for members of ERS and URS.

Annual savings from these changes are projected to steadily increase from $602,000 in FY 2015 to $11,538,000 in FY 2027.  Beyond FY 2027, the savings will continue to grow.

Anonymous User : Have you been attending the transportation meetings? How have they been going? Do you think we can bridge the shortfall?

Edward Long : I have attended all the transportation meetings where this process has been discussed with the Board of Supervisors. While road construction and maintenance remain a state responsibility, the board and the community are frustrated by the lack of state funding to meet these transportation obligations. We're looking forward to sharing this information with the public to get their feedback, both at the meetings and through the online survey, to determine how to best proceed with this critical issue for Fairfax County. I encourage you to take the survey, which you can find here:

Anonymous User : What have your first few months been like as the County Executive? What have you accomplished? What are your goals for the future?

Edward Long : My first few months have been busy to say the least. I have had the opportunity to get out in the community and talk with many of our residents and organizations.  I've also had the opportunity to do many "walkabouts" in various county agencies and I have been impressed with the passion that our employees have for public service. It is obvious to me that the county is large and complex and I look forward, as County Executive, to continuing these outreach efforts.

Anonymous User : Mr. Long, I am excited to finally see the redevelopment of Springfield Mall. can you explain how the mall will be transformed over the next two years. There is such a captive audience in the Kingstowne area wanting to know.

Edward Long : I, too, am excited about this redevelopment.  The Springfield Mall is an important anchor in our community.  Redevelopment there will do much to improve the property values, shopping opportunities and aesthetics of that area of the county. While much of the focus has been on Tysons, we cannot forget the importance of redevelopment activities taking place throughout Fairfax County.

Anonymous User : Would Fairfax County consider changing to a 10 hr-4 day work week for some buildings or agencies in order to save on utilities and other expenses that I'm not aware of?

Edward Long : The county reviewed this option a number of years ago.  The county determined that given the adverse impact on the availability of services for county residents, this was not a viable option.

Taylor Holland : There's been a lot of talks about budget cuts for the next two years. If the county does, indeed, ask its agencies to make the cuts, how will it affect residents? Will it be noticeable?

Edward Long : With the economy continuing to lag and the impending impacts of sequestration, we started our budget process early this year and have asked agencies to identify ranked reduction opportunities for my consideration and the board's deliberation this spring. We have already taken significant cuts in past years. We want to maintain what makes Fairfax County a special place to live, work and play, but there will inevitably be an impact on our services and programs. A balance must be achieved between services provided to the community and the cost the community is willing to bear for those services.

Having said that, I would never underestimate the ingenuity, creativity and hard work of our employees and our community and business partners to come up with solutions to meet these challenges. An investment may be necessary to maintain the quality of life that we have come to expect here in our community.

Anonymous User : What are the current sources of revenue that fund the county's transportation needs?

Edward Long : County transportation projects and services are funded through the following sources:

• Local:  General Funds, General Obligation Bonds, Revenue Bonds, Special Tax Districts, Commercial and Industrial Property Tax for Transportation, and Developer Contributions

• Regional:  Gas Tax to support the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; Tolls

• State: Gas Tax, Sales Tax, Auto Titling Taxes, Driver Registration Fees

• Federal:  Formula transportation grants (major source: Gas Tax), special appropriations, Department of Defense funds

Anonymous User : First, thank you for your leadership and in trying to maintain a respectable health care program. However, I am concenred that the County has gone overboard by requiring a $100 decudctible for brand name presecriptions. This is a 100% increase. While I get generic wherever possible, occasionally there is the brand name prescription. Combined with the new deductible of $50 per year, I find this to be too much.

Edward Long : Prescription medications make up about 24% of the medical plan costs for the county plans.  To better manage these costs, plan design changes were made for the 2013 plan year, however none of these changes require a $100 deductible for brand name prescription drugs for an individual.   The prescription drug changes made to our three self-insured plans require an annual $50 individual deductible ($100 Family) and then a co-insurance of 20% for brand name formulary medications, not to exceed $50 per prescription and a 30% co-insurance for brand name non-formulary medications, not to exceed $100 per prescription. For mail-order medications the co-insurance percentage is the same, however the maximum cost per prescription is $100 and $200 respectively. To protect participant’s costs the changes also include an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for family. With the new changes actual cost over the year could be less than under the current co-pay plan design. 

csb concerns : Hello. Just wondering if you think the Board of Supervisors' plugging of the CSB budget will get the organization out of hot water, if you will, and back on track. I know they've been asked to go back to the drawing board and find more cuts. Do you think that'll have huge implications on the community?

Edward Long : We have a work plan that we are implementing to assess both the short-term and long-term needs of the Community Services Board. Human services programs become even more important to the community during these times of economic stress. It is critical that we maintain our safety net for those most in need. Recommendations associated with the work plan will be incorporated in my 2014 and 2015 budgets.

Edward Long : Thank you for participating in this online chat. I hope it was useful. Unfortunately I didn't have time to get to all of your questions. I look forward to future opportunities to chat with you.

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