The June 2014 Bulletin of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (FCTA), the self-proclaimed “Watchdog of the Taxpayer’s Dollar Since 1956,” presents a disturbing graph depicting a 130% increase in residential real estate taxes during 2000-2015 while showing an inflation increase of 48% during that same period.
Have County services increased significantly during this period of major tax increases for residential property owners? Not according to FCTA member Charles McAndrew, who expressed his criticism of the then proposed 2015 budget to the Board of Supervisors on April 9, 2014:
COUNTY BUDGET PROPOSED INCREASES. We want to protest the increases in the budget that amounts to more than twice the rate of inflation. The County Executive has proposed for FY 2015 General Fund Disbursements totaling 3.29% more than the FY 2014 Adopted Budget Plan. This is an increase over twice the current inflation rate of 1.3%.
Of course, these increases over twice the inflation rate have been going on for at least 40 years that we have been involved in reviewing the budget of Fairfax County. The FY 2015 General Fund Direct Expenditures will increase by 3.96% over the FY 2014 Adopted Budget Plan. Again, this is three times the current inflation rate. All of this data is quoted from the “County Executive Presentation of FY 2015 Advertised Budget Plan.”
Much of these increases is brought about by retirement and health benefits. Isn’t it time for the county officials to change the retirement plan for new employees to a 401(k) type retirement plan and raise the retirement age to 62? The Federal Government changed their retirement plan for all new employees from the generous Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in 1986. FERS is a hybrid retirement plan much less generous than the CSRS.
BUDGET CUTS. The County Executive has provided a list of $20 million in possible cuts. Supervisor Herrity has also provided a proposal to cut $34 million.
Cuts can also be made in the School-Aged-Child-Care program (SACC) to make it more cost neutral for the county. Currently, the SACC program only recoups about 80% of its costs, and the county pays $9 million (Fairfax County Times, March 28, 2014). The county should make the residents who use the SACC pay the full price!
If the county officials cannot figure out what to cut in the entire $7 billion budget, then implement a 5% across- the- board cut.
The Centre View newspaper editorial (Feb 6, 2014) mentioned there are approximately 6,000 students of illegal parents in the Fairfax County School Public System (FCPS). The FCPS budget office states the average cost per pupil for 2015 is $13,535. For English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), the cost per pupil is $14,264. For Special Education, the cost per pupil is $21,721. The average of the two cost factors ($14,264 + $21,721 = $35,985 divided by 2=$17,992) for 6,000 students of illegal parents yields a total cost of $108 million per year.
Send the bill to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reimbursement. This is a Federal problem, and the Federal Government should be paying for this. This sure would cover the budget shortage in the FCPS.
In addition, the FCPS Board should be reviewing why the higher officials in administration are receiving greater pay increases than the teachers. Why are there Cluster Directors? What purpose do they serve? Why do they need so many Assistant Principals? There could be some cost cutting in these areas!
According to the FCTA, between FY2000 and FY2015 public school spending and staff will have increased faster than enrollment. The school budget increased 32% while the school staff increased by 25%. In the meanwhile, enrollment increased by 22% during this period. Why is this happening?
Many thanks to the diligent FCTA for rigorously tracking County spending – the good, the bad, and the ugly. With residential real estate tax rates skyrocketing, it’s time for Fairfax property owners to pay attention to how the County Government is spending their hard-earned money. Don’t be surprised to see significant amounts of unnecessary and wasteful Government spending by Government officials not being held accountable by taxpayers and the sovereign citizenry.