I was pleased to support the FY 2020 Budget Plan which allows us to address many of the board’s priorities from One Fairfax to affordable housing, new environmental initiatives to fully funding our schools, all without increasing the real estate tax rate. This is a great accomplishment and indicative of the strength of our current economy, business development and development in general. Even as things are going strong, the budget provides for additional growth and revitalization opportunities, including on the Richmond Highway Corridor and in the Lorton area.
One important addition to this budget was raising the county employees minimum wage to $15/hour and increasing the proposed county employee Market Rate Adjustment (MRA) to 2.1 percent. These elements are critical to attracting and retaining talent, while ensuring that those who live, work and play in our county can continue to do so. An added piece of this puzzle is the funding of a new Workforce Attraction Program through the Economic Development Authority (EDA). We have many unfulfilled job opportunities, which if not addressed, will dampen our vitality and reduce future job growth. Attracting the talent to fill these positions is critical to our redevelopment and continued economic growth.
Housing, frankly, is our Achilles heel and the county has been slow to respond to this need. With the third quarter budget adjustments and new funding in the FY 2020 Budget, we have made great strides, but still must do more. We are suffering the consequences of a regional lack of supportive housing and a decrease of affordable housing in surrounding jurisdictions, which has hurt current Mount Vernon District residents by causing rents and home prices to increase.
As our corridor redevelops, I am committed to ensuring that no one gets left behind. While this includes the neediest among us, it also includes our teachers, first responders, recent graduates and young families. If you live or work in our community now, you should have an opportunity to continue to live here, or to move here. We all, the county, private sector and I, must be working closely together every single day to retain our quality existing housing and build new housing along our highways.
As the grandson of an undocumented immigrant, I supported the pilot funding for legal services for Fairfax County immigrant residents. I have heard from many constituents both for and against this pilot funding which helps some immigrants who are facing deportation receive legal services. We face an unprecedented challenge of children and families in our community that need and should receive due legal process and proper representation.
One of my proudest moments on this board came in February when I brought forward my Fairfax Green Initiatives Board Matter to more quickly, broadly and systematically address our growing environmental challenges. My colleagues on the board joined me in unanimous support and county staff has moved forward expeditiously. The budget now includes funding for a new Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination and two new positions to support development of a Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP).
Last here, but first on my priorities, we are fully funding our schools for a second year in a row. We have funded needed teacher pay increases and additional support for our students. Needs-based staffing makes a big difference with our lowest income students and those not excelling as quickly as they can. This funding is critical for keeping Mount Vernon District students and schools competitive.
While I worked hard for this year’s budget outcomes, we still need to work with our state legislators to change the state funding formulas and return more of the tax dollars generated in Fairfax County to Fairfax County. Currently, the county only receives 2.3 percent of its funding from the state, with the state returning to us only 23 percent of what Fairfax County residents contribute in state taxes. (These taxes are principally contributed through the fairest and most progressive form — income taxes.) Even just returning a few percentages more of our income tax dollars could significantly lower our real estate tax rate. In addition, if the county had the same taxation options as the nearby cities of Alexandria, Falls Church or Fairfax, we could also lower our real estate tax rate by diversifying our funding options.