Fairfax County tentatively OKs budget, tax increase

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Local,Virginia,Aubrey Whelan

Fairfax County supervisors on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a $6.7 billion budget that raises real estate taxes on the average household by about $80 and increases spending by $175 million over this year.

After weeks of public hearings on the proposed spending plan, board members approved a number of amendments, including $3.3 million for affordable-housing initiatives, and $1.36 million for social services, including homeless shelters and adult learning programs. They also approved the first raise for county employees since 2009.

The budget is up for final approval May 1.

The tax rate in Fairfax increased from $1.07 to $1.075 per every $100 of assessed value. Stormwater fees will increase from $0.015 to $0.02 per every $100.

Two Republican supervisors -- the Braddock District's John Cook and Springfield District's Pat Herrity -- voted against the revised budget, calling for the county to cut spending on government programs and increase spending on road and bridges repairs.

"Board members have said that setting aside some money for transportation would mean there would be less funding available for other things. That's called setting priorities," Cook said. "I believe transportation should be among our highest priorities, a fact not reflected in this budget."

The board did agree to increase transportation funding, setting aside half of any surplus in next year's budget for roads.

Regional and community libraries got $674,000 in the budget, allowing them to expand their hours and add 14 part-time positions. Board members approved $50,000 for the Arts Council and $25,000 for the Fairfax Symphony, initiatives for which residents expressed support in public hearings.

The board agreed to use $2 million from a county housing fund to pay for 200 units of affordable housing, adding to the $40 million already set aside in the 2013 budget for housing. Herrity opposed the move, saying 20 percent of those "affordable" units would be available to families earning up to $120,000 a year.

Despite Herrity and Cook's opposition, the board advanced the budget for a final vote.

"We're restored the lion's share of what we've heard about [from the public]," said Lee District supervisor Jeff McKay. "We're taxing at a reasonable rate that gets us through next year. The budget before us is balanced and fair."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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