FAIRFAX, Va. — Fairfax County Executive Ed Long says a heavy reliance on residential property taxes, and increasing costs for schools and other basic services, could lead to a deficit of more than $90 million for the budget that the Board of Supervisors will consider a year from now.
He says that growing the commercial tax base and reconsidering adopting a meals tax in the county could help keep services at the level residents are used to without requiring a major tax hike.
As the county reviews its budget situation, Long is launching a line of business review process that will have every county agency look for ways to perform better and that will create a prioritized list of county services to help guide future decisions services need to be cut.
Long plans to divide services into categories to identify what is a core service, what is mandated by the state or federal government, and what is a quality of life service. Board members balked at a fourth category labeled “discretionary” services, for fear the title could immediately lead those services to be cut, even if they are important to the community.
The review will include a look at what value residents are getting from services, including from the school system.
Long says he hopes the process will lead to the creation of a three-year plan sometime next year. The review is not intended to address next year’s expected budget gap. He says he does not know how the county will deal with the shortfall for fiscal year 2017.
The Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month not to raise the property tax rate for this year. There are three public hearings on the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget set for April 7, April 8 and April 9.
On another county note, Fairfax County plans to add more money to its rainy day fund after criticism from bond ratings agencies.
The county board’s finance committee agreed with the need to boost cash reserves closer to 9 percent of the total general fund budget, and also to add a new economic development reserve that could help increase business development in the county.
Maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating would hold down the amount the county spends on debt payments.