Budget Very Much On the Minds of Council Members

Budget Very Much On the Minds of Council Members

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland had a message for the people who attended last week's Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations (MVCCA) meeting.

"Each of us needs to make it our business to reach out to our delegates. They need to get off the dime and get with it. It will have an awesome ripple effect on all the counties."

Hyland was, of course, talking about what will happen if the Virginia legislature doesn't come to terms on a budget. April 5 is the deadline when the local school boards will have to decide if they send out RIF notices; May 1 is the date when city and county need to pass local budgets. July 1 is the date the government would shut down if a budget is not passed.

"This is the lull before the storm. We want to fund schools and reduce the tax rate. And the challenge is the uncertainty of what may happen at the state level. These are interesting times, to say the least," said Hyland

One of those delegates Hyland referred to was at the meeting. Delegate Kristen J. Amundson (D-44) was in town during a break in the session. She said that there was a striking difference between the House representatives and the Senate representatives. Amundson said that the Senate version of the budget was "more aggressive than what I was willing to support."

She also said, "I think that it [the budget] is a catastrophe. There are some ideologically-minded members of my body determined to push ideology above any kind of compromise."

Amundson said that they did manage to pass some legislation. Most pertinent to this area were bills dealing with Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Woodlawn Road alternative and a waterfowl ordinance. She had brought with her copies of Session Highlights 2004.

Before she left, Amundson said to the council, "That's where we are. We go back into session on Saturday. I want to thank all of you. You all represent the community and you've never been shy about saying what you want."

BUDGET CONCERNS CONTINUED to come up during the rest of the evening as members gave their committee reports and resolutions were passed. George Bauer spoke for the Budget & Finance Committee; they have been busy meeting with Hyland and making recommendations. Listed in the March edition of the "Record," MVCCA's monthly newsletter, are the ramifications of some of the shortfalls.

Judy Harbeck, chair of the Education committee, said that she has been working with the Budget & Finance Committee. She said in the "Record," "The committee was especially concerned that the nature of presentation of teacher compensation gave the erroneous impression it contemplated a major upward jump in other compensation and competitive status when in fact the increase was substantially the same as granted over the last 4-5 years and would not improve the competitive salary ranking but at best maintain it."

Health & Human Services Chair Louise Cleveland, said that there "was no room in the budget for further cuts." The "Record" stated, "Many of the 56 health and human services options had been reviewed and ranked by the citizen advisory body as Difficult, Serious, Severe or Unacceptable reductions."

Public Safety will also be affected by budget cuts, as testified to by Dallas Shawkey, chair. He reported, "The committee reviewed most of them [proposed cuts] and essentially objected to implementing most of them. Items of particular objection included the reductions to the Community Services Board since these will reduce services that are needed to help keep people out of jails." The transportation committee, led by Frank Cohn, discussed concerns about the reduction of bus routes.

THERE WERE THREE resolutions having to do with budget issues. One by the Health & Human Services, stated that they supported approval by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors of the advertised budget plan for FY2005, suggesting that they take no actions that reduce the County revenue projected in the FY2005 budget plan and available in the General Fund for essential services. Another resolution on the Fairfax County FY2005 budget stated that if higher than estimate revenues occur, from any source, they will be used to reduce the residential real estate and tax rate.

A resolution on taxation stated that the MVCCA supports taxation of cigarettes and the authority for the counties to asses these taxes, to provide additional revenues directly to the counties.

Finally, the education resolution stated that the Board of Supervisors adopt a budget for FY2005 to provide a transfer to Fairfax County Schools which is no less than that contained in the FY2005 advertised budget presented February 23, 2004.

All of the evening's resolutions passed.