FAIRFAX, Va - Fairfax County, the Washington region's biggest county, is feeling the pinch of a slow economy and indecision on federal budget cuts.
Fairfax County's Executive Ed Long is proposing a budget of $3.59 billion for fiscal year 2014 that raises property taxes while cutting cuts funding for libraries and parks. The budget would eliminate 91 jobs.
The proposed Fairfax County budget includes a property tax rate increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. The rate would go from $1.075 to $1.095 per $100 of assessed value. The average homeowner would pay about $262 a year more in taxes if the budget is approved.
Of the 91 jobs the county would cut, 79 are open jobs that will not be filled. Twelve people could lose their current jobs.
Long says planning for the next two years has become more difficult because of the indecision in Congress over federal budget cuts. He says the uncertainty makes it more difficult for both government and businesses to plan.
"The sooner the better," he says in reference to the March 1 deadline for Congress to undo a provision that would impose across the board federal spending cuts nationwide.
"Make the decisions," Long says. "Let's move forward."
In his letter to the Board of Supervisors, Long wrote:
"As we begin our work on the FY 2014 budget, the economy is showing extremely slow growth. The federal budget showdown continues. Although it avoided the fiscal cliff, Congress must still deal with the debt ceiling, the federal budget deficit and sequestration. The impact of sequestration is potentially significant and perhaps more importantly, largely unknown. The uncertainty regarding federal budget actions clearly impacts our economy. Our residential real estate market continues to improve, and at a more healthy rate of 3.50 percent, but commercial assessments are only up 0.14 percent. This is a very sharp drop from the level last year and points to concern in the business community about the impact of sequestration since commercial values are reliant on vacancy lease rates. Commercial expansion is not likely until the sequestration impacts are clearer. The results of this uncertainty are likely to keep real estate tax growth down in the near term."
Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in Virginia, would be allocated $1.889 million under the proposed budget. That is about about $62 million less than the superintendent requested.
Funding for schools is 52.6 percent of the overall county budget.
Long says his proposed budget will cover the school district's projected enrollment growth, but he says that may force the school board to rethink pay raises for teachers.
"That's the debate that has to take place, as to whether or not the timing is right to go forward with those," he says.
Under the budget plan, the county's 12,000 non-school employees would not get pay raises.
Public hearings on the budget proposal are set for 6 p.m. April 9, and at 3 p.m. April 10 and April 11.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt a budget on April 30.
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