The overall economy of Fairfax County is "very strong." The only problem is that 60 percent of that strength is based on income from real estate taxes.
That was the primary assessment from Edward L. Long, chief financial officer and deputy county executive, Fairfax County, during his presentation "An Overview of Fiscal Year 2008 Budget and Taxes" at the 20th Annual Town Meeting of Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland last Saturday at Mount Vernon High School's Little Theatre.
"Although Fairfax County has only 13.5 percent of the State's total population we contribute 25 percent of the State's revenue. Of every one dollar we sent to Richmond we get back only 19 cents," Long told the audience filling the semi-circular auditorium before him.
He then proceeded to expand upon the following fiscal facts relative to Fairfax County finances.
* The County cannot tax income. That is reserved for the State. Personal property taxes account for 16.1 percent of the County's fiscal base while local taxes such as sales and utilities provide an additional 15.2 percent.
* Fairfax County's contribution to the State income tax revenue was 24.4 percent while it has only 13.5 percent of the total State population. Overall Northern Virginia provides 43.4 percent of State income with 27 percent of the total State population. This area covers Planning District 8 which includes Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Loudoun, Manassas, Manassas Park, plus Fairfax and Prince William counties.
* Public education is the largest consumer of County General Fund income at 51 percent. Others by percentages, in order of consumption, are: Public Safety 12.7; Health & Welfare 11; Nondepartmental 6; Transfers 5; County debt service and reduction 3.4; Parks & Recreation 2.4; Central services 2.3; Public Works 2; Community Development 1.5; Judicial Administration 1; and Legislative-Executive Functions 0.8.
* General Fund Revenue Growth for a single year hit its high water mark in 2006 at 9.5 percent. For 2008 that is predicted to reach only 2.5 percent by comparison, according to Long.
* Although annual residential equalization has dropped from its 2006 high of 23.09 percent, the 2007 figure is expected to level out at 20.57 percent which is still above the previous high of 19.01 percent set in 1990.
* Job creation in the County rose from 580,129 in 2005 to 596,129 in 2006. Those changing jobs dropped from 22,559 in 2005 to 16,000 in 2006.
* No growth in residential assessments is expected in 2008. Nonresidential property values are expected to increase by 10 percent in FY 2008. Office vacancy rates continue to decline and sublet space is at a four year low and declining.
The County's FY 2008 budget schedule is as follows: County Executive releases budget February 26; Budget public hearings April 9 through 11; Budget mark-up April 23; Budget adoption by the County Board of Supervisors April 30.