Commentary: A Look at the FY 2019 Budget With a Glimpse into the FY 2020 Budget

Commentary: A Look at the FY 2019 Budget With a Glimpse into the FY 2020 Budget

Public engagement was key to the FY 2019 Budget process. I appreciate the thousands of Fairfax residents who took the time to share their support or concerns for this year’s Budget. Whether in writing, in person, by video or by phone, your input has shaped the final FY 2019 Budget.

The Budget is based on a tax rate of $1.15 per $100 in assessed value. It includes:

  • Fully funding the School Board's request, bringing teachers' salaries into competitive alignment with our nearby jurisdictions in the region;

  • An increase of $91.49 million, or 4.22 percent, over FY 2018 in overall support for our school system, with 52.8 percent of our General Fund Budget going to schools; in addition to capital funding, and providing before and after school care, health and police services.

  • Fully funding compensation for county employees with a 2.25 percent Market Rate Adjustment, Performance, Merit and Longevity increases;

  • New funding for the coming South County Police Station, Fairfax First and gang prevention efforts;

  • Additional funding for mental health initiative Diversion First, Early Childhood programs, and responses to the Opioid Crisis;

  • Funding increases for Metro, VRE and the Connector Bus System.

Through identified savings in the original County Executive’s proposed FY 2019 Budget and anticipated additional State funding for our schools, we were able to lower the proposed real estate tax increase from 2.5 cents to 2 cents. I believe the FY 2019 Budget strikes the right balance between keeping taxes affordable for our residents and maintaining the high quality services for which our county is known. I am grateful that we were able to identify ways to lower the proposed tax burden on our residents, however, I recognize that we still must do more. I am committed to doing so.

With planning beginning for our next budget, FY 2020, we adopted guidelines to ensure we conduct a thorough, targeted Line of Business review of the current county budget to secure new cost savings. This process, along with the development and adoption of a county strategic plan, will be critical to prioritizing our needs and balancing our resources more effectively.

The School Board needs to also undertake a similar process to identify efficiencies and cost savings. We all agree it is necessary to continue to expand our early childhood education services, competitively compensate teachers, reduce school trailers and support school renovation needs. The challenge is how to pay for them.

This year, the Board of Supervisors will also review options to update the county employee defined retirement benefit plan to offer more flexibility for new hires, while maintaining existing retirement plans for current employees. Additionally, we will be looking at the public safety sector compensation issues and assessing the benefits to cost of initiatives such as body-worn cameras.

As you may know, the required regional Metro funding increases will have a $100 million negative impact on funding our current roadway and transit improvement needs. A serious review of this year’s new funding for Metro must be done. We need to secure more State funding, or our Richmond Highway improvement funding could be set back years.

As I have said before, it is concerning and frustrating that the county needs to increase the only tax base it controls as a result of underfunding from the State. Did you know that the State returns to us only 23 percent of what Fairfax County residents contribute in State taxes? Every one cent increase in what the State returns to us would generate over $35 million in additional funding for the county. In addition, if the State provided per student education funding at just what it was 10 years ago, this year’s tax increase would be unnecessary.