Fairfax Co. mulls future budget after projected shortfalls

WASHINGTON — Fairfax County leaders beginning to consider a budget for fiscal year 2018 received sobering news Tuesday: Anticipated growth in revenue sources is either anemic or nonexistent.

County Executive Ed Long presented information to the board of supervisors and school board that prompted discussion of raising taxes. Both the county government and school system face projected budget shortfalls for FY 2018.

Virginia law requires counties to have balanced budgets. So, if taxes are not raised, cuts could be coming.

“We know what happened with the meals tax, and that was an attempt to diversify our revenues,”
said school board Chair Sandy Evans of the failed referendum. Seventy percent of the money that would have been raised by the meals tax would have gone to the school system that pledged to use it for teacher raises.

“If we’re going to enhance revenues, about the only thing we really have in our tool kit now is the property tax, is that correct?” Evans asked.

“Yeah, pretty much,” county board Chair Sharon Bulova and Supervisor Jeff McKay replied near simultaneously.

“It is very difficult; we are down to core programs now in terms of services we’re providing,” Long said, while noting he’s asked staff to identify two areas of non-core services “that we potentially could look at to reallocate.”

During his presentation to the boards, Long detailed “future uncertainties” including interest rates and Federal Reserve board policies, sequestration cuts that would happen next fall if Congress fails to act, a projected state budget shortfall and the potential impact of new presidential administration policies on the local economy.

“It’s a time to be very cautious as we go forward in terms of what’s going to happen in the short-term and long-term economy,” Long said.

A proposed FY 2018 school system budget is expected Jan. 12, 2017, and the county’s proposed budget comes out shortly thereafter on Feb. 14.

Find the entire FY 2018 Fairfax County budget forecast here.

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