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2009: Looking Forward In Fairfax County

As hard as the economic downturn hit Fairfax County this year, budget officials said next year promises to be worse.

Fairfax’s next fiscal year will start about a year from now, on July, 1 2010.

County staff predicts the Fairfax budget shortfall in that fiscal year will be about $315 million if the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors refrains from imposing any new taxes or fees.

Even if the supervisors chose to raise the real estate property tax rate 11 cents per $100 of assessed value and impose a new vehicle registration fee next year, the county would still face a shortfall of $89.5 million.

More than 60 percent of county revenue comes from local real estate taxes and the county expects a 10 percent drop in residential property values and an 18 percent drop in commercial property values across Fairfax this coming year.

Fairfax’s budget provides approximately 70 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools funding, meaning the local schools are likely to feel the impact of a county budget gap.

If the school system received the same amount of money from the county it did this year, about $1.63 billion, it would still have to make cuts equal to about $200 million, said Susan Quinn, the schools’ chief financial officer.

The school system has seen some of its expenses increase significantly, including those associated with staff retirement funds and utilities costs. School officials also predict Fairfax schools would continue to see a surge in enrollment, which adds to the overall expense of running the school system.

From the commonwealth, Fairfax County has also seen a significant decline in the amount of money it receives to cover transportation costs.

Two years ago, Virginia gave Fairfax about $28 million annually to address new transportation construction projects, an amount of money county officials then said was inadequate to meet demand. This year, Fairfax has received $240,000 for new transportation construction — not enough money to cover the installation of a traffic light.

Several Fairfax elected officials have agreed that the Virginia General Assembly must increase the statewide transportation funding pool but Republicans and Democrats in the state government have been unable to reach a compromise on how to do so. In general, Democrats want to raise revenue through next taxes and fees and Republicans have resisted looking toward a tax increase as solution.