Fairfax County won’t be seeing any noteworthy increases in state funding this year, but it also might avoid a drop in the overall revenue it receives from Virginia.
Under either the House or Senate version of the budget, the county would see about $3.7 million more in state funding for general county services, according to a staff analysis, but could see an equivalent cut in school funding.
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) budget eliminates the so-called “cost of competing” funding for school support staff that some jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, receive to help provide salaries in line with the higher cost of living here.
This wouldn’t affect teacher salaries, but would reduce the amount of state money the county has to pay guidance counselors, teacher aides and other support staff.
“The teachers will tell you that those personnel … are just as important to the operating of the school,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the Board of Supervisors Legislative Committee.
The net loss for the Fairfax school system from McDonnell’s proposal is $4 million.
“We have to fund it, or we will lose people,” McKay said.
The House of Delegates restored half the funding while the Senate restored all of the 2014 cut, plus partially restoring funds cut in fiscal 2013. The Senate budget would have a net positive for the school system of about $200,000, according to the staff analysis.
The biggest difference between the different budget proposals is how they treat Medicaid funding. McDonnell and the House of Delegates do not favor expanding Medicaid coverage to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, as envisioned in the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Senate budget does plan for the Medicaid expansion, which will come with a boost of federal funding.
“It would be a mistake to leave federal dollars on the table,” said Senate Democratic Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Dist. 35) in a released statement praising the Senate vote. “This commonsense improvement to the budget is not only fiscally responsible, but will give many low-income working families the health care they deserve and create jobs.”
McKay said the county strongly supports the Medicaid expansion because it would benefit about 25,000 to 30,000 people in the county and could decrease the amount of money that the county and local nonprofits and hospitals spend on charity health care services.
“We would be crazy in Virginia to not take advantage of the expansion,” McKay said. If the state doesn’t accept the federal money, he said, it will mean Virginia taxpayers’ dollars will in essence be shifted to fund Medicaid programs in other states.
The Senate budget also includes a bit more funding for a few items of interest to Fairfax County, according to the county staff analysis.
The Senate budget bill includes about $3 million more for the Infant and Toddler Connection program statewide, above a $3 million increase that McDonnell proposed. Fairfax has struggled to meet the growing demand for the program locally due to budget constraints.
The Senate budget also includes $2 million for a transit study for the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William counties that is not included in the House budget.
The differences between the two sets of budget amendments will be reconciled in a conference committee.