The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors identified $24.8 million that will fund county employee compensation, human services, longer library hours, and other programs during a Tuesday mark-up session of the county’s fiscal year 2013 budget.
The adjustments passed by a vote of 8-2. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, on his first day back after recovering from , and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook voted against the $6.7 billion budget.
"Today, while not entirely out of the woods, we are beginning to see evidence of a recovery — a slow and sluggish recovery, but a recovery nonetheless," Chairman Sharon Bulova said. "Hopefully, we are beginning to see the dawn of a new day."
For the first time since 2009, full compensation adjustments have been restored to county employees. More than $16 million of the adjusted funding will go towards pay increases, including a 2.18 percent market rate adjustment (MRA) effective in July, merit increments and longevity steps for public safety employees, and a 2.5 percent performance-based increase in January for non-public safety merit employees.
The board also added $1.36 million to the budget for human services programs, including Access Fairfax, rent relief for the elderly and disabled, the adult dental program and Home Based Care.
The adjustment came after three consecutive days of budget hearings earlier this month, during which many emotional county residents who benefitted from the programs urged the board to increase funding. (See Patch's full coverage of the public hearings here.)
Additionally, the board established a $4.2 million reserve for the Community Services Board (CSB) and other human services to lessen the impact of state and federal reductions.
Money has also be added and reallocated for the county’s Housing Blueprint, another popular topic at this month’s budget hearings. The board identified $2 million for 200 new housing units and $1.3 million for the county’s portion of the Housing Blueprint Community Challenge.
Regional libraries will be open for nine more hours weekly, and community libraries will be open for three more hours weekly, thanks to nearly $675,000 in increased funds.
The board also increased the proposed $50 million bond referendum for the Fairfax County Park Authority to $75 million. County parks would receive $63 million and $12 million would go to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.
The mark-up package shifted a half-cent of County Executive Anthony Griffin’s proposed one-cent increase in the stormwater fee over to the real estate tax rate. The decision results in a real estate tax rate increase to $1.075 per $100 of assessed value from the current $1.07. The stormwater service fee will also go up to 2 cents from 1.5.
By shifting the half-cent, the board frees up $9.9 million that would have otherwise gone to a fund that can only be used for water treatment.
Cook voted against the budget because of a lack of funding for transportation infrastructure, something he said the county desperately needed. “We must be mindful of the tax burden on our residents, and we must make infrastructure, and especially our roads, a significantly higher priority,” he said in a statement read before the board.
Herrity opposed the budget because he didn’t think it took into account potential hundred million dollar shortfalls that Griffin had indicated could occur in future budgets with the county’s current spending and revenue levels.
“We need to be preparing for our future, and this budget fails to do that, in my opinion,” he said.
Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay supported the budget. ““The budget we have before us today is balanced, it’s fair to the taxpayers and to the good employees that run this county on a day-to-day basis, and it’s one that I’m proud to support,” he said.
Although the budget restored money to many services and programs, the board maintained the 4.5 percent transfer increase to Fairfax County Public Schools. The school board had requested a 5 percent transfer increase during budget hearings. When combined with county support for school debt services, the FCPS budget makes up 52 percent of the county's general fund disbursements.
Other highlights of the mark-up package include:
- An increase of $100,000 for the arts, which includes funding for the Arts Council, the Fairfax Symphony and an educational program at Wolftrap.
- An increase of about $461,000 to maintain six public safety employees who staff the HAZMAT Support Unit.
- An increase of $83,000 to continue funding the police department’s cadet program.
Today was at work. Griffin is retiring after decades of service to Fairfax County and received a standing ovation from the auditorium during today's session. , another longtime Fairfax County official, is replacing Griffin as county executive.
The budget will be formally adopted during a Board of Supervisors meeting on May 1.