County boosts funding for affordable housing, library collections and more

Inside the City of Fairfax Regional Library (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Thanks to higher-than-anticipated revenue, Fairfax County gave a financial boost last week to its affordable housing goals, public library collections and park facilities, among other initiatives.

Before taking a preliminary vote on the next budget, which will be adopted tomorrow (Tuesday), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved nearly $10.7 million in changes to the current fiscal year 2023 budget — known as the third-quarter review — when it met on May 2.

For the biggest adjustment, the board increased funding for affordable housing by $8 million on top of $10 million already recommended by County Executive Bryan Hill.

The county has now committed over $118 million to affordable housing over the past two years, including $45 million in federal Covid relief funds, as it aims to produce 10,000 new units by 2034, per county documents.

“I think most people in our county, including very profoundly, the business community, understand that affordable housing is an essential ingredient for economic success,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said. “It’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s a requirement.”

Also included in the package was $300,000 for Fairfax County Public Library materials. FCPL Deputy Director Kevin Osborne says the library was “so pleased” that the board approved the funding, which will go toward research database subscriptions and ebooks.

“Due to the nature of eBook licensing to libraries, adding to the digital collection is more costly than adding to the physical collection so we are also hoping to purchase additional eBook licenses for some titles that have some excessively long hold queues,” he said in an emailed statement.

During a budget policy committee meeting on April 26, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity put forward an “alternative” third-quarter proposal that gave $2 million to FCPL to expand its collection and hours, which were reduced last summer due to staffing challenges.

At the time, a library spokesperson said the vacancy rate was about 18 to 20%. While current numbers weren’t available by press time, filling the system’s 390 positions evidently remains an obstacle.

“Like many other employers, public libraries continue to face recruitment challenges,” Osborne said. “We have no update as to when normal hours will resume.”

Herrity’s proposal also suggested allocating $5 million to county park maintenance — with the combined $7 million coming out of the affordable housing funds. A version of the proposal without the library money died at last week’s meeting after no one else on the board “seconded” the motion for a discussion.

The approved third-quarter review did include $2.1 million for Fairfax County Park Authority projects:

  • $1.7 million to improve six fields at Wakefield Park so they can accommodate softball
  • $300,000 to replace and upgrade Lake Accotink Park’s playground, which has been closed since an inspector determined the equipment was unsafe in November
  • $100,000 for a safety assessment of other playgrounds with equipment from the now-defunct vendor used at Accotink

The playground at Lake Accotink was removed the morning of May 2, according to the office of Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, whose district includes the park.

“FCPA is currently in the design process and expects to have information on the concept in the next few weeks,” a spokesperson for his office told FFXnow.

With its adjustments to the third-quarter review, the board also approved $217,308 to hire a contractor to remove signs illegally located in the public right-of-way and a $60,000 contribution to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, an Annandale-based nonprofit that preserves land and water from development.

Read more on FFXnow…

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