-- Charles McAndrew, March 23, 2016
Three FCTA board members attended a Fx Co budget town hall meeting at the Springfield Government Center on Wednesday March 23, 2016. The moderator was Pat Herrity, Springfield District Supervisor, with Edward Long, County Executive, Kyle McDaniel Chairman of the Citizens Budget Review Committee, Phil Hagan, Department of Budget and Management, and Jim Kirkpatrick, President Springfield District Council presenting testimony. Here is a summary:
Ed Long gave the budget presentation. The FY 2017 Advertised Budget General Funds Revenue is $4.01 BILLION, an increase of 4.8% over last year's budget. The Fairfax County Public School budget for FY 2017 is approximately $2.7 BILLION and requires a $122.7 million increase over last year's budget or 6.7% increase over the FY2016 Adopted Budget Plan. The difference between the Advertised budget and the request is almost $68 million, equating to approximately 3 cents on the Real Estate Tax Rate. All expenditures of the Fairfax County Government in the FY 2017 Adopted Budget Plan grand total is $7.45 BILLION, an increase of $319 million, or 4.5% over the FY 2016 Adopted Budget Plan.
Now, according the Consumer Price Index for Fairfax County, (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), the inflation rate was 0.1% for 2015, 1.6% for 2014, 1.5% for 2013, 2.1% for 2012, 3.2% for 2011, and 1.6% for 2010. So again, as usual, year after year, the county is raising the budget at least double or triple the Fairfax County annual inflation rate!
Ed Long reported that the State will provide an additional $17 to $21 million more for school funding for the FCPS. He mentioned that the 3% school transfer included in the Fairfax County Advertised Budget is more than the 2.3% revenue growth rate without the rate increase. The County also provided about $85 million for additional support to the FCPS for programs such as Head Start, School Health, Behavior Health Services, School Resource Officers, School Crossing Guards, after-school programming, field maintenance and recreation programs, and the need to improve the school playing fields for various sports.
Pat Herrity mentioned that in 2001, FCPS added a second pension plan which costs $76 million per year and represents over 5% of total compensation. He stated that this significantly reduces the necessary funding that should be available for teachers salary increases which he is in favor of at this time. The second pension plan encourages our experienced teachers to retire at 55 and does little to attract the best and brightest of today's young millennial teachers. Because of Fairfax County's underfunding of the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for quite a few years, they are being forced by the State to increase in funding of the VRS. Fairfax County has been only funding 60% to 80%, when they should have been funding 100% to VRS. They must now fund 90%.
Pat Herrity mentioned that the commercial taxes are down due to high office vacancy rates of around 16 to 17%. He would like to see the commercial tax base back up to 25%, as this would offer some relief to the residential real estate taxes being paid. As it is now, the increase in real estate taxes is almost 6% or $1.13 and represent an increase of 26% over the last five years. Just keep in mind that the Fairfax County Consumer Price Index increase for this same period was 8.5%. According to Fairfax County records as recently printed by the Connectionthe average assessed value of a single family home in Fairfax County for 2016 is $632,507, up 1.69%.
Pat Herrity fielded many questions including the ones all three of us asked. I stated that it is grossly misleading for both the County Executive and the School Superintendent to constantly state that they have CUT the budget each year when the FACTS do NOT support this. The budget and taxes increase by DOUBLE or TRIPLE each year! He also mentioned that he will not support any real estate tax increase, not 4 cents or 3 cents or 2 cents or even one cent! He is the only County Supervisor I know of to have made this bold statement!
FCTA's Bruce Bennet spoke and presented a fact sheet that showed Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill district) not only blew away approximately $50M of taxpayer dollars, but at the same time she managed to remove somewhere between $325,000 and $640,000 in annual RE tax base (using 2016 rate) for a property in Reston. She did this by converting it from taxable to tax-exempt. And in taking this action, she managed to kick out some poor souls living in the Affordable Dwelling Units and remove them from the Market rate ADUs. (Bruce afterward gave back-up material to Ed Long.)
Please see my previous memos on other District budget meetings that I covered in other parts of the county.
-- Charles McAndrew, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance