This story was updated on April 23, 2013.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors signed off on a fiscal 2014 budget package Tuesday that raises taxes and essentially holds the line on county spending.
While the package of budget amendments introduced by Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) passed on a 9-1 vote, most of the supervisors expressed reservations about some area of the compromise plan. The board will formally adopt the $6.7 billion budget at its meeting next week.
“This is an ugly budget year with bad circumstances that we have to deal with,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “We weren’t dealt very good cards this year … but we’re here and we have to address it.”
The county is bracing for the economic impacts of federal budget cuts, dealing with slower than expected economic growth due to uncertainty in the federal contracting sector, and trying to meet the needs of a growing population.
“Fairfax County is very much affected by what goes on at the federal level,” Bulova said. “Just announcements about cutbacks in federal spending and contracting have already resulted in a rollback of growth in our commercial sector.”
The budget the board will adopt next week “makes no one happy,” Bulova said, but she believes it is a fiscally responsible approach.
The real estate tax rate will increase by 1 cent, to $1.085 per $100 of assessed value, less than the 2-cent increase proposed by County Executive Ed Long. This will raise homeowners’ tax bills by an average of $216.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) was the only one to vote against the budget package, saying he thought the board should have cut the budget more to avoid the 1-cent rate increase.
“This budget, other than deferring employee compensation … doesn’t make any difficult decisions,” Herrity said. “We need to tighten our belts.”
The package also sets the initial rate for the new tax district to fund Tysons Corner transportation projects at 4 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The county’s $3.6 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2014 is 1.37 percent larger than the current year, most of which reflects the 2 percent increase in the county transfer to Fairfax County Schools. The general fund encompasses funding for schools and most county operations.
The $1.7 billion in funding, $41 million more than this year, is less than what the School Board had asked for but, Bulova said, is adequate to cover the costs associated with the school system’s rapid enrollment growth.
School Board members had been planning to give a pay raise to school employees. However, as the Board of Supervisors was not able to fund pay raises for its employees, county board members strongly discouraged them from doing so.
“We made a commitment to look at [employee pay] next year and I hope they will do the same and honor the comments that we heard from our employees that we’re all in this together,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).
During the budget hearings, county and school employee representatives asked that all county employees be treated equally in terms of compensation, although it was said in the context of requesting a pay hike.
Most proposals from county supervisors and community groups to restore funding to certain areas of the budget, including Head Start and the Community Health Care Network, remain unfunded.
Some other programs get some “seed money” — far less than the millions they had asked for, but a nod to supervisors’ support for those programs. This includes an effort to improve employment services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness as well as a request to implement new mental health services for youth.
Public safety cuts fared better under the compromise budget. Funding for four police station logistics personnel is restored as well as three positions to maintain courtroom security for certain civil and domestic relations cases.
View the full budget mark-up package at fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb.