Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill presented the FY 2021 Advertised Budget Plan today, Feb. 25 to the Board of Supervisors.
The budget focuses on board priorities including school readiness, affordable housing, environmental stewardship and education, and aligns with the priority outcome areas identified during the development of the Countywide Strategic Plan. The Advertised Budget Plan includes a three-cent increase in the Real Estate Tax Rate and a new 4% Admissions Tax.
The proposed General Fund budget is $4.63 billion, a $175.87 million (or 3.95%) increase over the FY 2020 Adopted Budget. Including other appropriated funds such as federal and state grants, the total proposed budget is $8.83 billion.
“The investments required to make progress on our collective goals — including employee compensation, the development of affordable housing, the expansion of school readiness opportunities, environmental stewardship and support for Fairfax County Public Schools — are substantial. Unfortunately, we cannot provide appropriate levels of funding in these areas with no adjustments to our tax rates.”County Executive Bryan Hill
View the county executive’s full presentation.
Tax Rate Increase
The proposed tax rate increase would bring the rate to $1.18 per $100 of assessed value and result in an average annual tax bill increase of approximately $346.
Of the proposed three-cent increase, two cents would be used to balance the General Fund and fund board priorities. The third cent would be earmarked for affordable housing, tripling the amount of dedicated funding for this initiative.
One penny on the Real Estate Tax Rate generates approximately $26.5 million.
Admissions Tax Proposed
Fairfax is one of 13 counties in Virginia permitted to charge an admissions tax of up to 10% on items like tickets for movie, theater, concerts and sporting events, and entrance fees to museums, gardens and zoos.
The proposed 4% tax, limited in scope to apply only to the sale of movie, theater and concert tickets, would take effect in October and would generate approximately $2.31 million in revenue in the first year. Revenue would be deposited into the Contributory Fund and used for arts and tourism.
Hill noted the tax also supports efforts to diversify county revenue sources and take pressure off the General Fund, allowing for the expansion of library hours and parks scholarships.
The county executive’s budget plan includes an increase of $85.72 million or 3.65% over FY 2020 for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Operating, Debt Service and Construction. The recommendation is consistent with the board’s budget guidance, which encouraged equal growth of county disbursements and school transfers.
County disbursements are also proposed to increase by 3.65%. The transfer for Schools Operating increases $85.52 but is $4.18 million short of the $89.70 million increase requested.
It is anticipated that FCPS will be able to make up the difference between the increase and the amount requested through increased funding from the state.
Transfers to the Schools Operating, Debt Service and Construction Funds make up 52.6% of General Fund disbursements in this proposal.
The presentation also included a review of the development of the Countywide Strategic Plan, which was released today.
Hill discussed the need for such a plan and the guiding principles: multiple avenues for engagement; defined community-focused outcomes; using data-driven insights and evidence-based strategies; and applying a racial and social equity lens to engagement and strategy development.
The FY 2021 Budget maps major spending initiatives to the nine strategic plan priority outcome areas.
He highlighted the development process including extensive engagement with the community, staff and other stakeholders. Next steps for the plan include additional engagement opportunities, with plan adoption concurrent with the FY 2021 Budget.
Among them is:
- Funding to expand school readiness programs like the new Early Childhood Birth to 5 Fund and a recommended $25 million bond referendum for early childhood facilities in 2020 in the Lifelong Education and Learning priority area.
- Dedicating one cent of the proposed tax increase to affordable housing under Housing and Neighborhood Livability.
- Body-worn cameras and staff for the new Scotts Run Fire and South County Police stations under Safety and Security.
- Funding to expand environmental initiatives, Diversion First and the Opioid Task Force under the Health and Environment priority area.
- Funding for expanded library hours (11 of 22 locations will move to standardized hours), scholarship assistance for parks programs and use of admissions tax revenue to increase funding for the arts under the Cultural and Recreational Opportunities priority area.
The plan fully funds the county’s compensation program, including a 2.06% market rate adjustment for all employees, performance and longevity increases averaging 2% for merit non-uniformed employees and merit and longevity increases averaging 2.25% for merit uniformed public safety employees. On average, non-uniformed and uniformed employees will see pay increases of 4.06% and 4.31%, respectively.
Funding for the increase is due in part to savings in the area of fringe benefits, resulting from employees selecting lower cost health care plans. These changes have produced significant savings in the county’s share of plan premiums. Combined, savings in health insurance and retiree health benefits total more than $11 million.
The advertised plan also includes 177 new county positions.
Budget committee meetings take place in March and April, and public hearings are scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday, April 14-16. Markup (when the Board makes changes to the advertised budget) takes place on Tuesday, April 28, and the board adopts the FY 2021 Budget on Tuesday, May 5.