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On the Ballot: $94.7 Million for Fairfax County Parks

by Karen Goff October 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm 16 Comments

Lake Fairfax ParkWhen Fairfax County voters go to the polls this fall, they will vote for, among other things, the U.S President and a county Meals Tax.

Also on the ballot is a county park bonds question. If that referendum passes, it will provide $94.7 million for the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Here’s the question posed to voters:

Shall the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money and issue bonds, in addition to bonds previously authorized for parks and park facilities, in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $107,000,000:

(i) $94,700,000 principal amount to finance the Fairfax County
Park Authority’s cost to acquire, construct, develop and equip additional parks and park facilities, to preserve open-space land, and to develop and improve existing parks and park
facilities;

and (ii) $12,300,000 principal amount for Fairfax County’s contribution to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to
acquire, construct, develop and equip parks and park facilities?

Bonds are one of the main funding mechanisms for the park authority. Park fees cover about 60 percent of all park operating costs. The remaining operating funds are derived from taxpayer contributions, including developer proffers.

2016bond-distributionBut user fees do not pay for developing new facilities — such as a $90 million recreation center planned for the Reston Town Center North area — or major renovations.

The sale of bonds helps Fairfax County spread the cost over the years that the facilities are used. Fairfax County has a AAA Bond rating, which ensures low interest on the loans.

The Park Authority is currently operating under a plan of $15M bond sale for FY 2017, and increasing that amount to $18.5M in FY 2018.

If passed, this will be the third bond program of the last 10 years for the park authority. The last bond referendum was in 2012; the park authority says it is still in the process of allocating that $63 million. Of that $63M, the park authority has sold $14.8M, leaving a current balance of $48.2M in bonds authorized, but unissued.

With a bond sale coming up in January, the park authority anticipates that an additional $15M will be sold, reducing the available balance to $33.2M.

The park authority says the 2016 bond would be allocated this way: 56 percent for park renovations and upgrades; 28 percent for new park development; 8 percent for natural and cultural resources stewardship; and 7 percent for land acquisition and open space preservation.

See more about the bonds and some of the improvements planned by the park authority on the Fairfax County Park Authority website.

Graphic courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

  • cRAzy

    “The last bond referendum was in 2012; the park authority says it is
    still in the process of allocating that $63 million. Of that $63M, the
    park authority has sold $14.8M, leaving a current balance of $48.2M in
    bonds authorized, but unissued.”

    If FCPA hasn’t spent three-quarters of the money voters authorized for expenditure 4 years ago, why is FCPA asking for more money? Just like the rest of FC government, it is simply seeking to spend more–because it can! Not a hint of a constructive plan linked to this request for more debt.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      I think the issue isn’t that they don’t have a plan to spend the money; I think the issue is that nobody wants to buy the bonds in spite of our AAA rating.

      • Bill Bouie

        There are plans to spend the money, but the Park Authority is only authorized to spend $13.5M of the bond monies each year. You can go to our website and see what projects have been allocated for the 2017 Work Plan. We hope that number is bumped this year, but it ensures adequate planning time and staffing to support the bond projects over a number of years. The current bond programs from 2012 will cycle through and be completed by the end of 2018.

        Our citizens love their parks and I hope that you will go out and support our bond program.

        Bill Bouie, Chairman
        Hunter Mill District Representative
        Fairfax County Park Authority

        • cRAzy

          2 questions:
          1. Why don’t you have a plan for the money before you ask for it so that you can spend it in an orderly manner?
          2. At $13.5MM per year, FCPA could have spent more than $50MM by now, but it has only spent $15MM. So why are you asking for another $95MM? Do you have a plan (not a pie chart) for it? If so, lay it out.
          FCPA is beginning to look like FCPS.

          • Bill Bouie

            Please go to the website and see the bond fund programming and projects. There are monies committed to projects and it is all laid out in our annual work plans. It is very detailed and we can answer any questions that you have with regard to the projects and what is spent. I appreciate the questions. Thanks

        • One Really

          Bill,
          First all of thank you for you volunteering your time. I think a better approach instead of responding to each comment is to write a Co-Ed that Restonnow.com can publish. Maybe you can incorp alot of discussion here.

  • One really

    I usually go running at different spots during the day. Whether it’s on the Reston trails or around in Herndon. I often wondering as I see the same trucks and people sleeping. How much money could we save.
    Seems to be a common theme with FCPA personnel and RA.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I am for parks. My beautiful Fairfax County has gone from an area with lush No Va forests and farm lands to one of tract housing and concrete canyons.

    Still, considering how poorly the county has chosen to spend the money which I send to it, my vote is “No”. Either pay for it through the annual budget process, or live without it. Better yet, get the developers, who rape our free spaces wantonly, to pay for it.

    • Guest

      Developer proffers offset impacts.

      If you love parks, you deserve to read the linked presentation and learn about how they are funded and improved.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    For those of you who haven’t seen the sample ballot, not only is Fairfax County asking for the Meals Tax, but they’re also asking to borrow approx $227,000,000 in three separate bond initiatives.

    When is enough “not enough”?

    • Bill Bouie

      These are general obligation bonds and do not add to your tax bill. Please go to our website http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks for a full explanation on the bonds and all of the projects that are associated with it.

      Thanks in advance

      • mystery money

        Maybe not directly, but where exactly does the money to pay back the bond interest come from?

        http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bond/bondfaqs.htm#QWhatpercentageofmytaxesgoestowardpayingforthebonds

      • The Constitutionalist

        Bill, I’m not entirely sure you understand how bonds are paid. Whether or not our taxes are increased by the issuance of bonds does not change that our tax money does in fact go toward paying the bonds.

        You might (hint, hint) even be able to find this information on your own website. But with you being a government employee, it would be foolish of me to expect you to know that already, wouldn’t it?

        • Bill Bouie

          I do know and understand, and I am not a government employee. All of our board members are volunteers as are most of the members of the 93 Boards and Commissions in the County which make government work in the county.

      • cRAzy

        C’mon Bouie! You know we not only pay off the bonds, but also the interest that goes with it over time.

        • Bill Bouie

          Absolutely, the point that I was making is that these are County bonds, not the Park Authority. Our bonds have done very well in the marketplace and are very attractive. Thanks

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