The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board on April 6 passed resolutions recommending changes to the Fairfax County government’s proposed fiscal 2023 budget and urging the Board of Supervisors to finance the county Park Authority’s natural-resource-sustainability efforts.
The budget resolution, presented by MCA’s Budget & Taxation and Education & Youth committees, urges supervisors to reduce the county’s real-estate tax rate by at least 3 cents, for a maximum of $1.11 per $100 of assessed value.
The resolution sought substantially more money for maintenance and repairs of existing facilities, equipment and property, and less for expanding existing programs or creating new ones.
“These are challenging times,” said Scott Spitzer, who took over in March as MCA’s new president. “While the proposed budget recognizes there are improving economic conditions as the county and the nation have steered through the worst of the pandemic, there are some reasonable and prudent budgetary approaches and specific proposed funding that the MCA urges the Board of Supervisors to revise from the advertised budget.”
MCA board members also expressed concern about the roughly 200 vacancies in the Fairfax County Police Department and recommended larger pay raises for police officers up to the rank of second lieutenant.
MCA’s resolution encouraged supervisors to reduce the budget transfer to Fairfax County Public School (FCPS), stating that since fiscal 2018 the school system had added hundreds of administrative positions and was asking for even more in the coming fiscal year, even though student enrollment has declined and is projected to continue doing so through FY 2027.
The association’s resolution expressed approval that the county’s three pension plans had reduced their discount rates, which are used to estimate pension liabilities, from 7.25 percent to 6.75 percent. The resolution urged that the school system’s supplemental pension plan also reduce its discount rate to no more than 6.75 percent.
Higher discount rates encourage pension plans to invest in riskier assets, increasing the chance that county taxpayers would have to finance larger pension contributions in the future.
The resolution supported the school system’s for hiring more psychologists and social workers and proposing to on board two planners for its Department of Facilities and Planning, who would be tasked with improving FCPS’s enrollment projections.
The MCA board also approved a resolution, proposed by its Environment, Parks and Recreation Committee, supporting a March 28 request by Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) that supervisors fully fund at $751,954 from the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) to finance its natural-resource-sustainability initiatives in fiscal 2023.
That amount would fund the total compensation, including salaries and benefits, for three additional full-time ecologists to supervise volunteers who remove invasive plants, MCA members said. County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed fiscal 2023 budget includes only $50,000 of the requested amount.
The full funding amount is needed because of increased park usage and declining county financial support, MCA’s resolution read. County park use increased 60 percent during the pandemic, but FCPA’s overall funding has declined as a proportion of the total county budget, the resolution read.
FCPA’s current funding of $159 per acre for 4,720 managed acres falls short of the nation benchmark and as a percentage of total general-fund budget than those of neighboring counties., MCA members said.
FCPA’s Resource Management Division lost 10 authorized full-time positions between 2021 and 2022, while at the same time the Park Authority’s need for ecological-resource maintenance grew because of 739 additional acres under management, the resolution read.
The Park Authority’s Invasive Management Areas Program relies heavily on volunteers, whose since the program’s inception in fiscal year 2016 have had an estimated worth of more than $1 million, MCA members said.