Officials say Fairfax parks not as dire as claimed

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Photo - People fishing at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax (Examiner file photo)
People fishing at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

The Fairfax County Park Authority is resisting making additional budget cuts demanded by the county, insisting that further cuts would devastate its services, even though the authority's budget increased by 10 percent over the last three years.

The Park Authority is the only agency that hasn't complied with County Executive Ed Long's order to identify ways to slash spending by 10 percent, just in case the county has another budget shortfall.

The Park Authority's staff did identify cuts they could make, ranging from eliminating portable bathrooms at athletic fields to cutting staff at lakeside parks. But the authority's board of directors wouldn't approve them.

Instead, Park Authority Board Chairman William Bouie asked the county to provide an auditor to review the authority's budget, saying it had already "borne its fair share of budget reductions since 2008."

County officials granted the unusual request for an auditor, but also questioned whether the authority's circumstances are as grim as it claims.

The money the county gives the authority goes into a general fund budget. But the authority has a separate budget, its revenue fund, that includes all fees it charges for parking and special events. That revenue fund has grown by 10 percent -- nearly $4 million -- since 2009.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said the agency may be able to absorb the county-requested cuts simply by using revenue fund dollars to replace the general fund tax dollars the county wants to cut. Eliminating three management positions and shifting that revenue fund money to its general budget could help the authority absorb additional cuts, he said.

"We've been hearing that they're cut to the bone," Herrity said, "but when you combine the funds, it appears as though they've had very few cuts."

Since 2009, the Park Authority has eliminated 28 general-fund positions, but added nine positions funded by the revenue fund, according to records obtained by The Washington Examiner.

"Rather than make a number of cuts," Herrity said, "they've just shifted personnel and costs among the funds." Herrity said.

Park Authority officials did not return to calls seeking comment.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner