In what is a best-case scenario for an elected official, County Supervisor John Foust and others at last week’s Fairfax County Budget meeting in McLean said the new year’s spending plan has been fairly uncontroversial.
“In prior years it’s been much more controversial,” said Foust. “The budget this year seems to be generally accepted. People are happy that we’re holding the tax rate flat and I know people are thrilled that we’re able to fully fund the school operating budget.”
Others in the McLean Citizens Association said that the biggest talking point in the audience was concern over the McLean High School overcrowding, which is currently a School Board issue rather than a County Board one.
Foust noted that a leader of a local parent group spoke up and asked Superintendent Scott Brabrand about redistricting the school. At a School Board meeting last week, Brabrand said an update on solutions for McLean High School overcrowding would be released sometime in March.
Foust said 3.8 percent revenue growth, much of it driven by new development in Tysons, has given the Board flexibility to fund the School Board’s budget and funding for county priorities like gang and opioid prevention efforts. Foust said some of the biggest new items in this year’s budget are a series of environmental initiatives to address climate-change related issues.
But Foust also said one of the biggest criticisms of the budget has been that it doesn’t give enough to the county’s affordable housing programs.
“One issue that is not funded the way advocates would like to see funded is affordable housing,” said Foust. “There’s been so little concern expressed about this budget, but the extent that I’ve heard has been that we need to do more about affordable housing. I think the Board of Supervisors agrees and we’re working on that.”
Foust also said that there are concerns about the budget skipping a pay-raise for employees.
“There are concerns by employees that as advertised the Board does not pay full market rate adjustment to county employees,” said Foust. “We’re looking at our options to see if there’s anything to help find money in the budget to pay a little bit more.”
Public budget meetings are being held in each of Fairfax’s districts, but anyone wishing to address the Board of Supervisors directly regarding the budget is invited to speak at public hearings on April 9 and 11.