A tumultuous General Assembly session earlier this year left Virginia communities fearing for their fiscal futures.
But with the legislature finally wrapping up its business this week, local officials said they've learned that the state's two-year budget includes more money for schools, a more even-handed approach to sharing pension burdens with public employees and fewer mandates on local governments.
Lawmakers left an overtime session in Richmond in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after more than 12 hours of wrangling over the budget and judicial nominations. For local officials, it marked the end of weeks of uncertainty about what it would all mean for their own budgets.
"With the delay and not knowing for sure what education funding would be, it has made it more difficult to adopt their budgets," said Mary Jo Fields of the Virginia Municipal League. "They've tried to be as conservative as possible."
Officials in Northern Virginia said the General Assembly session offered a mixed bag for their communities. The budget compromise included millions more for education, and local governments can now phase in the 5 percent pay raise they must give to workers, who, in turn, must increase their own pension contributions by 5 percent.
Arlington County Supervisor Jay Fisette also was pleased that the General Assembly thwarted Gov. Bob McDonnell's effort to shift some responsibility for road work from the state to local governments. Lawmakers also killed McDonnell's attempt to require some localities, including Arlington County, to get state approval for their own transportation plans.
Still, the state remains without a plan for funding road maintenance and new construction, Fisette said.
"There's been no serious effort to deal with the obvious serious transportation funding issue," Fisette said. "Instead there's been an effort through numerous mechanisms to shift responsibility for transportation and services to local government."
Communities also may be able to save money because McDonnell and a state task force eliminated some state mandates on local governments, like requiring state permission to install red-light cameras, said Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, though he lamented the legislature's refusal to allow local schools to open before Labor Day.
"We continue to pick up additional financial responsibilities," Herrity said, "but it was not as bad as it has been in prior years."