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Growth in Tysons Drives Swelling County Budget, But Urbanization Also Adds Challenges

Tysons is quickly becoming one of the largest contributors to, and one of the largest demands on, the Fairfax County budget.

The FY 2020 Fairfax County Advertised Budget, presented at a Board of Supervisors meeting today (Tuesday), was met with praise from supervisors for keeping the county steady without raising the tax rate.

The budget will maintain the real estate tax rate of $1.15 per $100 of assessed value. The average Fairfax resident will see their tax bill increase by approximately $149.

But the county still experienced $162.83 million in revenue growth at the current 3.04 percent tax rate, much of which was driven by growth in Tysons.

The budget noted that prime real estate markets in Fairfax are spaces near the Silver Line, which has helped position Tysons as a financial powerhouse of the county. The completion of the 975,000-square-foot Capital One headquarters building was the majority of the County’s 1,191,000 square foot increase over 2017’s office space inventory. According to the budget documents:

Lease rates for new space are adjusting to market conditions as many tenants are taking advantage of favorable rates, and others are looking to capitalize on market conditions by consolidating operations in newer space near Metro stations. Submarkets along and near the Silver Line – Tysons Corner, Reston and the Herndon area – are especially well-positioned to take advantage of this trend. More than 54 million square feet of new office space is in the development pipeline countywide.

But the budget documents also show some of the demands Tysons is putting on the budget.

The Fairfax County Police Department is facing internal budget struggles, particularly as it works to adapt to urbanizing areas like Tysons. According to the report:

Keeping pace with urbanization to include Tysons, the Metro Silver Line extension, Springfield Town Center, South County development, and other micro-urban development countywide, will continue to challenge the Department for decades to come. Providing basic police service in urbanized areas requires different policing modes and resources than traditional methods in the suburban model the Department has been using for many decades

The report said that the department’s five-year staffing plan will include meeting the urbanization demands in Tysons with expanded police services. The budget has 16 additional uniformed positions planned for FY 2021 in the county’s long-term staffing plan.

One area of disappointment from supervisors was the lack of funding for body-worn cameras. A pilot program was implemented through 2018 and a report on the findings is expected in the first quarter of FY 2019, but officials expressed concerns that the program was not in the police budget for FY 2020.

The increasing population and density in Tysons are also putting a strain on the local parks. According to the budget:

Collectively, the major rezoning applications approved in Tysons since 2010 generate a need for eight new athletic fields under the maximum approved development levels. The equivalent of two athletic fields have been built and currently serve Tysons area users.

The budget does note, however, that new athletic fields have been proffered — funded by developers as a condition of approval — including a baseball diamond near Westgate Elementary School and a 2.3-acre park near the Tysons Galleria.

While the growth in Tysons is likely to put some strain on Fairfax County Public Schools, plans to address that overcrowding are currently not funded.

Each supervisor said they will be holding budget meetings in their communities over the next few weeks. Supervisor John Foust from the Dranesville District said the McLean discussion will be held on Feb. 28 at the McLean Community Center at 7 p.m.

The budget is scheduled to be adopted on May 7.

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