Fairfax County supervisors unanimously approved a budget-carryover package Sept. 12 that will use leftover funds for reserves, infrastructure, demolition of an aging public-safety headquarters building and other initiatives.
Supervisors allocated $35.81 million for county financial reserves and infrastructure needs, plus $15.4 million to cover demolition of the Massey Building in Fairfax, which has served for decades as the county’s public-safety center. Law-enforcement and fire personnel are scheduled to vacate that structure by the end of the year and move into a brand-new facility located next to the Herrity Building in Fairfax.
Supervisors on Sept. 12 also set aside $1.52 million for the Planning and Land Use System (PLUS) Project and finance 10 positions for the ongoing initiative to improve the county’s land-development process.
In addition, the Board of Supervisors put $500,000 in reserve for gang-prevention efforts and $1.1 million for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board to pay for increased residential treatment and medical-detoxification beds in response to the ongoing opioid-addiction crisis. Board members also put $2.5 million more in reserve for anti-opioid efforts.
Some area residents spoke in favor of the opioid-combatting funds. Jenny Atwood-Lovett, whose brother died from a heroin overdose four years ago, said the opioid crisis is robbing the country of a generation of young people.
“This is not going anywhere anytime soon,” she said of the overdose epidemic. “It’s not a matter of if we put the resources into it, but when.”
John Briggs, whose 21-year-old son died three years ago from an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl, agreed with that assessment.
“We need to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves,” he said. “They need our help collectively. They can’t just do it on their own.”
Some who suffer from opioid addiction do so because of physiological factors they cannot control, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D).
“This is not a moral flaw in people,” she said. “This is the way some people are wired.”
Supervisors also set aside $4.89 million for disbursement increases within the carryover budget and $760,000 for other expenses, including $371,000 for the Aug. 29 School Board special election and money for the Fairfax County Park Authority’s summer entertainment series.
The board approved a total of $1.04 million for funding needs and one-time requirements, but under an amendment proposed by Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) took $50,000 that might have been put toward that amount to cover rising production costs for the Park Authority’s summer concert series.
Board members noted the concert-series funds were a recurring expense instead of a one-time expenditure, which is how county officials prefer to spend their carryover moneys.
“This is creep,” said Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who voted against Cook’s proposal. “I would hope that this would not become a habit.”
But a majority of supervisors said the concerts’ community-building benefits made this policy exception worthwhile.
Three members of an organization representing county employees asked supervisors to give those workers some of the carryover funds to make up for missed market-rate salary adjustments in recent years. They also urged board members not to reduce retirement benefits for county employees.
Supervisors acknowledged the speakers’ concerns about pension benefits, but said changes being mulled would apply only to new employees.
“Be wary of any propaganda put in front of you,” urged Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee). “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”
Critics may allege that county officials spend taxpayers’ money willy-nilly, but the carryover total amounted to just 0.87 percent of the county’s budget, McKay added.
“There is little room for error in our budget process,” he said.