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McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board members on April 7 passed a resolution on Fairfax County’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget that asked the Board of Supervisors to cut the real-estate-tax rate and hire a consultant to look for budgetary efficiencies.
The resolution, which passed on a 25-10 vote, urged supervisors to reduce the county’s tax rate by 2 cents to $1.13 per $100 assessed valuation. This would result in a revenue decrease of about $54 million, but would be offset by higher property assessments.
County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed $4.5 billion budget calls for a tax rate of $1.14, but supervisors advertised for a maximum rate of $1.15, the current tax, in order to have more flexibility during budget deliberations.
Hill prepared his proposed budget before the March 11 enactment of the federal American Rescue Plan, which will provide with county with an estimated $223 million.
Given the upcoming receipt of federal aid, a county tax-rate reduction would be appropriate, said MCA board member Louise Epstein.
Even with a proposed 1-cent tax reduction, Hill’s budget still calls for the establishment of a $20 million economic-recovery reserve and the hiring of 109 more employees, the resolution noted.
Sixteen of those workers would be assigned to the new South County Police Station, 15 to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, 13 to capital-improvement projects, 11 to the new Sully Community Center, nine to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, eight to Scotts Run Fire Station in Tysons, seven to the Opioid Task Force and six to handle the county’s upcoming collective-bargaining efforts.
While no employee pay increases are included in the proposed budget, workers could receive bonuses, as they did during the pandemic in fiscal year 2021, said Dale Stein, chairman of MCA’s Budget and Taxation Committee.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) also likely will receive an additional $180 million under the American Rescue Plan, so MCA’s resolution called on the Board of Supervisors to release the county’s budget transfer to the school system by that amount.
MCA’s resolution urged the School Board to eliminate proposed 3-percent across-the-board pay increases for employees and instead offer one-time bonuses to school-based workers with salaries up to $125,000 per year and non-school-based employees working for the Department of Information Technology.
The resolution also recommended that the School Board award hazard-pay bonuses of up to $2,000 to school employees whose jobs put them at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.
“We’re trying to provide bonuses to those who did put themselves at risk,” said James Beggs, chairman of MCA’s Education and Youth Committee. Bonuses do not get factored into the county’s long-term calculations for pension plans, MCA members said.
MCA board members were divided over the resolution. Member Kelly Green Kahn did not support it, saying it felt “tone-deaf” especially in regard to county schools.
MCA’s budget proposal also asked the Board of Supervisors to hire an independent consulting firm, with no prior relationship with Fairfax County, to analyze best practices for the county’s organizational structure, staffing and activities.