Fairfax County Executive Edward L. Long said he is optimistic but cautious as he presented a $3.7 billion Fiscal Year 2015 budget to the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
“We are still not back to the value of real property in the county that we were when we peaked in FY 2008 (for residential) and FY 2009 (for commercial), nor is all of the uncertainty concerning the federal budget resolved,” Long said. “So we must persist in our cautious and deliberative approach to budgeting, only funding items that are sustainable.”
The budget keeps the FY 2014 real estate tax rate of $1.085 per $100 of assessed value. However, the average county homeowner has seen an increase in his residential assessed value this year of about 6.54 percent. This means that FY 2015 real estate taxes for an average household will increase $331.67, the county says.
Long also proposed giving a $1.93 billion transfer to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) for school operations and debt service for FY2015. That is a a 2.07 percent and $39,113,302 increase over FY 2014. It will also account for 52.1 percent of the proposed county budget expenditures.
The school system had asked for 5.7 percent increase (an additional $98 million). over FY 2014. FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said she could not rule out layoffs as more than 700 positions will need to be eliminated as the system needs more than $59 million more.
Although not included in the transfer, the proposed county budget also includes $72.6 million in additional support for school services including Head Start, school health, resource officers and crossing guards, after-school programming, field maintenance and recreational programs, among others. The county will also give FCPS’ Capital Construction and Debt Service $29.93 million.
“As the county continues to face fiscal challenges, we must persist in our cautious and deliberative approach to budgeting, only funding items that are sustainable,” said Long. “We also must be ready to make the necessary decisions to maintain investment in our services, infrastructure and development of the community. Almost all of the budget increase I am proposing is for capital investment and for employee compensation — these are two critical elements of our continued success.”
Overall, the budget is an increase of 3.29 percent over the FY 2014 Adopted Budget Plan. (The total of all appropriated funds for the county is $6.95 billion, which includes the General Fund as well as other appropriated funds such as state and federal grants.)
Long said to give the schools more money would mean raising the real estate tax rate to cover it.
“Earlier this month, the School Board requested a 5.7 percent increase for FY 2015,” said Long. “This request would require an additional $63.8 million in funding and an increase in the Real Estate Tax Rate, which has not been included in my budget proposal.”
Meanwhile, Fairfax County Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova said she may try to increase the property tax rate to generate more funds for schools and other services.
Bulova (D) said Wednesday she will consult with colleagues to consider advertising a higher tax-rate cap. If the county were to meet the public school system’s full budget request, the rate could have to go as high as $1.115 per $100 of assessed value, she said. That would add about $150 to the average homeowner’s tax bill, on top of the higher tax assessment.
Additional Proposed Budget Recommendations:
- A 1.29 percent compensation increase for county employees, effective July 1, as well an increase in funding of health insurance and other benefits.
- Increase in capital construction funding, including capital renewal (planned replacement of aging roofs, electrical systems, HVAC systems, plumbing systems, etc. in county facilities), compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and athletic field maintenance.
- Increase in public safety funding, including 9-1-1 support and requirements, and full year funding of operations at the Wolftrap Fire Station.
- Increase in human services funding including behavioral health services for youth, school readiness for pre-schoolers and domestic violence services.
Public hearings on the proposed FY 2015 Budget are held in the Government Center Board Auditorium:
- April 8, 6 p.m.
- April 9, 3 p.m.
- April 10, 3 p.m.
There will also a be a series of Town Halls, beginning with the Hunter Mill Session at Frying Pan Park on Saturday, March 1 at 9 a.m.
Those wishing to speak at a public hearing can sign up online to place their name on the speakers list or contact the Office of the Clerk to the Board at 703-324-3151, TTY 703-324-3903. You can also provide feedback and comments on the proposed budget through mid-April at [email protected].
To see more information, graphics and other specifics of the 2015 Budget, visit the Fairfax County Government website.
Photo of Sharon Bulova and Ed Long via Fairfax County.