Fairfax County Executives announced the fiscal year budget proposal on Tuesday, February 23, kicking off the process of revisions and civic involvement.
The proposed budget has important implications for all members of the community. One such point is that of real estate. County Executives proposed a one cent decrease in real estate tax, to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value. Additionally, the county proposed that a $14.13 million increase in funding will go to education for school operation. Importantly, the county proposal includes no increases in compensation for employees.
“Providing compensation adjustments to teachers and other county employees is certainly a priority, but we simply don’t have the resources available,” said county executive Bryan Hill.
The community responded in a swift manner, with one group, Invest in Fairfax, meeting later that day. Invest in Fairfax is a coalition of “local parents, community members and essential workers.”
During the press conference, several community leaders spoke on behalf of various constituent groups. These included Tina Williams, President of the Fairfax Teachers Federation, William Barfield, President of the Fairfax Federation, and Karen Camplin representing the Fairfax NAACP, Julie Shepherd, representing the Fairfax County Counsel PTA, Kimberly Adams representing the Fairfax Education Association, Ron Kuley, President Fairfax County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics, Winifred Allen, local mental health therapist, Debby Kilpatrick, President of NOVAPTA, Beth Tudan, League of Women Voters, and community member Maya Castillio.
Some of the major concerns highlighted across different groups were expanded mental health support, prioritization on education, and market rate adjustment for employees.
Said Tina Williams, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president, “The county must provide employees with market scale adjustments.”
Likewise, President Ron Kuley of the Fairfax County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics stated “By now, many of us are suffering from Covid fatigue, the covid calls we’re handling are some of the most difficult of our careers for families and for the force. Often, we are the only connection between the family and a loved one because they’re dying, due to covid restrictions. As we move forward, we have to recognize these efforts financially. If possible, let’s put a market rate adjustment. This is the right thing to do.”
Winifred Allen, SEIU, a local mental health therapist stated that limited resources are a pervasive problem leading to suffering throughout the community.
“In the Covid environment, we’ve seen those with limited resources prior to the pandemic have suffered even greater. I see physical and sexual abuse, domestic vioelcne, students that are logging on less, struggling even more to learn. More of our neighbors and friends have lost jobs, filed for unemployment benefits, county employees who are essential workers are continuing to provide services while they are exposed to covid. Investing in Fairfax County employees ensures that the community is safe and enjoying quality of life.
The Fairfax County Republican Party, Fairfax GOP, issued a statement to the Fairfax Times stating ““Yet again, Fairfax Democrats are poised to kick county taxpayers when they are down. Make no mistake: the Democrats’ budget would raise homeowners’ tax bills in Fairfax County — by 3.4 percent on average. When individual citizens’ desires exceed their means to pay, they have to prioritize spending — it is about time for county government to do the same. One area ripe for cost-cutting is the commonwealth attorney’s office. Why is the commonwealth attorney getting $2.5 million for 15 new positions, when he’s prosecuting fewer cases? In short, we need a smarter, leaner budget that holds the line on taxes. Regrettably, with the notable exception of Springfield’s Pat Herrity, respect for taxpayers is sorely lacking on today’s county board.”
Ultimately, the coalition calls on the Board of Supervisors to enact “a budget which reflects our community’s values”.
Fairfax County citizens can get involved in the process and make their concerns heard by speaking at the April 13, 2021 public hearing held by the board of supervisors or by sending written testimony via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.