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Fairfax County officials are revising the proposed fiscal 2021 budget following dismal economic projections related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the McLean Citizens Association has some ideas on what spending reductions they should be considering.

MCA leaders have canceled the board’s in-person meetings until further notice because of the public-health concerns, but the association’s executive committee on March 29 approved a resolution recommending alterations to the county’s proposed budget.

The resolution, crafted by MCA’s budget and Taxation committee, calls for county officials to:

• Revise budget projections to account fully for the pandemic’s impacts on revenue and disbursements.

• Hold the county’s real-estate-tax rate steady at $1.15 per $100 assessed valuation, given the strains local houses are undergoing from the recession, plus higher real-estate assessments and the newly approved 5-cents-per-gallon rise in the state’s gasoline tax.

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed $4.6 billion fiscal 2021 budget, submitted Feb. 25 before the pandemic and its related recession struck, called for a 3-cent increase in the real-estate-tax rate to finance a higher transfer to county schools, employee pay increases and funding for affordable-housing initiatives.

• Compensate for lower anticipated revenues by substantially reducing disbursements listed in the proposed fiscal 2021 budget (except for pension-plan contributions) and make moneys available for pandemic-related expenses.

• Substantially increase deposits to the county’s reserves so that the total does not fall “significantly below” 10 percent of the county’s general-fund disbursements, even with pandemic-related revenue declines and cost increases.

• Make sure that contributions from the county and its employees to county-managed pension plans are enough to avoid a major rise in unfunded liabilities.

The resolution also commends the Board of Supervisors’ March 24 decision to establish an $11.3 million reserve for the pandemic within the county’s third-quarter budget review. In addition, MCA’s resolution approves of County Executive Hill’s directive that county agencies defer non-critical spending and freeze hiring for non-critical positions.

The MCA board plans to issue a follow-up resolution once the county government has detailed an altered budget proposal, said MCA president Dale Stein.

The association is altering its routine during the pandemic, but remains focused on its mission, he said.

“The middle of a crisis, with the coronavirus affecting the health and well-being of our community and with a resulting financial challenge for the county, is the time for MCA to be doing our best to help our community, even if it’s a little harder to do right now,” he said.

Instead of in-person gatherings, the group is holding meetings via video-conferencing and communicating by way of e-mails and telephone calls. Finding the right electronic-meeting platform and becoming proficient at its operations has been fairly easy, Stein said.  

“The challenge has changed the way we work,” he said. “I think that our meetings may be even more focused and efficient. And we have gotten up to date with 21st-century technology.”  

MCA will continue its  tradition of issuing about two resolutions per month with recommendations on how local issues should be handled,  Stein said. The MCA board will hold its May 6 meeting remotely via video-conferencing.

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