Comments on the Fairfax County FY2020 Budget
Testimony before the Board of Supervisors on FY2020 Budget, 10 Apr 2019
Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to address the 2020 Budget.
- There are two new positions with costs of $410,000 per year to provide two medical FTEs to administer to four (4) beds for acute medical care at the new shelter in Bailey’s. There are already free clinics in the area and the current shelter does not provide these services. The Board might consider alternatives for an interim period to determine whether or not this cost is necessary.
- In the CIP, money for revitalization in Annandale and Bailey’s streetscapes in the 2019 budget was eliminated in the proposed 2020 budget. Additional resources are still required to revitalize these long neglected areas in Mason District.
- In Mason District, the Crook Branch stream project has been on the list of projects for several years. A study was completed in 2017. The stream continues to erode backyards of houses in Mason and in Providence. Further, the sidewalk between Mason and Providence leading to Mantua ES has eroded and is unsafe for elementary school children using that area to walk to school. This project should be funded for 2020.
- As Supervisor Gross wisely pointed this out in her Q&A session, there is no money for Bailey’s Community Center upgrades. The requests of staff at the center are not significant relative to the overall size of the budget, but would improve the experience at this much used center. My back of the envelope estimate was that the staff’s recommendations could probably be accomplished for less than $100,000.
- I am pleased to see that the $250,000,000 Human Services building is marked as “TBD” in the proposed CIP budget. It should be eliminated entirely in due course. There are many other higher priority projects for capital construction – especially school construction – that are far more pressing and that positively impact housing values and quality of life for citizens.
- I believe that it is unwise to cut five field positions in Code Compliance as the 2020 Budget proposes. Code Compliance is far too lax in Mason District and it is the number one complaint from residents especially in Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads. If we are not going to give our field officers and Code Compliance division more teeth, then cutting resources will do a great deal of damage.
- The Board should consider eliminating the Civilian Review Panel. Elimination of the panel will reduce direct operating costs by $70,000 per year and eliminate an estimated 1,900 hours of additional police department staffing to support the CRP.
- The Board should not create a new Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination. This would eliminate $500,000 in new net costs to the County. We could certainly use that money to help clean up streams and roads of trash and debris that make its way into our lakes and the Chesapeake Bay. This would have a more meaningful effect on our immediate environment and quality of life in Mason District.
- The Fiscal 2019 Budget included $1.1 million for body worn cameras and 7 positions to monitor this program. In the Q&A, this amount balloons to $7 million per year, without inflation adjustments and acknowledging that these may not be all of the costs. Until the American University study comes forth certainly no additional investment in Body Worn Cameras should be made. Studies that have been done elsewhere are inconclusive at best and show body camera implementation to be counterproductive in some cases.
- Finally, significant and serious reforms of the County’s retirement plans need to be considered. Retirement planning is an important part of compensation packages. The private sector has nearly eliminated defined benefit programs in favor of defined contribution programs. This County should make a clean break for new hires in 2020 and beyond and make a concerted effort to buy out others. Doing this could free up to $150 million per year for other capital and operating costs or enable taxpayers to experience a tax cut for the first time in decades.
Thank you for your considerations of these suggestions as you deliberate the FY2020 Budget.