SUBJECT: Staff Comments on the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy’s “Seventh
Annual Fairfax County Budget Analysis”
Staff has been asked to respond to the referenced study authored by Michael W. Thompson. The report can be found at http://www.thomasieffersoninst.org/main/main.php. I have attached staff comments for your information. Please give me a call if you have questions or need additional information.
cc: Verdia L. Haywood, Deputy County Executive
Edward L. Long, Jr., Deputy County Executive David J. Molchany, Deputy County Executive Robert A. Stalzer, Deputy County Executive Susan W. Datta, Director, Department of Management and Budget Memi Fitzgerald, Director, Office of Public Affairs
Office of the County Executive 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 552
Fairfax, VA 22035-0066 703-324-2531, TTY 703-222-5494, Fax 703-324-3956
Response to Michael Thompson’s Fairfax County Budget Analysis:
The report compares actual spending over the past four years with what would have been spent had increases been limited to growth in the CPI and population. Based on this comparison, the report finds “overspending” (beyond the CPI and population formula) to be over $1 billion in a four year period, nearly $700 million in a 3 year period, and actual “underspending” nearly $200 million in a 2 year period. Blames bulk of “overspending*’ on schools.
Report states that the BOS, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, spent more than allowed in the budgets adopted in May of each year.
Report provides a number of suggestions related to County budget
b Panel of business leaders and government budget experts to review budget B Reestablishment of Citizens Budget Oversight Committee 0 Public private partnerships in building all government construction projects 0 County should issue request for Proposal for IT services to be handled by private sector
B Eliminate all possible duplication of services between the County and School board, consolidating these services to the government unit that achieves the best result at the best prices for taxpayers.
0 Staggered terms for BOS members
Response: The report, the “seventh annual” continues to take a simplistic approach to analyzing County expenditures and offers no in-depth analysis of County programs. By using the CPI/population formula, the report does not factor in the changes in County service requirements based on costs and issues not population/inflation driven. This primitive analysis has been used to look at the County budget a number of times dating back as early as the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Budget and numerous reports by the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance.
a There appears to be some discrepancies in the numbers used in the analysis of the County’s
budget as it relates to the County’s approved budget The Revised budgets (2004-2007) are incorrect and the FY 2004 actual budget as noted is incorrect.
® The report concludes that the Board “cannot seem to spend within its own approved budgets” because actual spending exceeded the adopted budget plan approved by the BOS in May. This conclusion ignores the complexity of the County budget process where, in accordance
with State code, obligations and encumbrances from previous years are carried forward to
match actual receivables and adjustments to County budgets that are made in both July and
April to meet County service requirements. The Board of Supervisors does, in fact, adjust its budget, after public hearing, as part of the annual Carryover Review and as part of the Third Quarter Review. At no time has the County exceeded its budget.
« The report asserts that the County overspends its budget because growth in County spending exceeds growth in county population and inflation. Such an analysis is a grossly simplistic wav of viewing the County budget and one that discounts the requirements of public service.
Since FY 2001, the County’s budget has increased $1.17 billion or approximately 54 percent resulting in an average annual increase of 5.6%. The transfers to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) for operations and debt service required $654 million or 56 percent of the increase. In addition to enrollment growth of nearly 3,500, the school system has had significant increases in the number of special education and English-as-a-second-language (ESOL) students and the Schools have expanded full-day kindergarten classes from 37
schools in FY 2001 to a total of 91 Countywide including an additional 21 schools in FY 2008 and opened several new schools. Other areas requiring an increased County investment include public safety, which makes up nearly 17 percent of the overall increase in the County budget, and human services, which accounts for nearly 8 percent. The following are some of the other more significant requirements funded during the period of FY 2001 through FY 2008, not just as a result of population/inflationaiy increases but also based on the needs of our residents:
> Additional police officers were added to provide additional patrol resources throughout the County and staff the Sully Police Station, the first new policing district in 26 years; and to provide additional support for security and investigative work, particularly surveillance in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Overtime was also increased to help address growing homeland security issues. Despite this investment in additional officers, Fairfax County still has one of the lowest officers per capita rates nationwide, in addition to one of the lowest crime rates. Additional positions were also added to staff the Office of Emergency Management to enhance the County’s emergency response and recovery capabilities.
> Additional positions for the Criminal Investigations Bureau -including Police Detective positions to provide additional investigative support in the areas of fraud/financial crimes and identity theft, organized crime and narcotics, an officer for the Homicide/Sex Crimes/Cold Case Squad that is responsible for reviewing unsolved homicides, rapes, abductions, and other sexual predator crimes and a Crime Analyst to assist the Criminal Investigations Bureau by integrating crime information and data to identify crime trends at the local, state and federal levels, in order to target crime patterns and provide predictive analysis for the deployment of personnel and other operational resources. Additional detectives for the department’s Domestic Violence Detective program. In CY 2006, over 3,000 domestic violence cases were reported and 74 percent of cases brought to trial resulted in convictions.
> Expansion of the Police Department’s Gang Investigations Unit from eight detectives to 12 detectives in an effort to keep up with the increased number of gang-related crimes, as well as the community’s interest in local gang awareness and prevention/intervention measures. This increase as well as other measures has been accompanied by a decline in reported gang activity.
> Additional positions and resources were provided to the County’s E-911 center and a new Department of Public Safety Communications was created to deal with increases in the volume and complexity of calls.
> Three additional fire stations have been opened in this timeframe; North Point, Fairfax Center, and Crosspointe (southern County). These stations are essential to improving emergency response times to residents living in those areas and work has begun to open a fourth station, Wolf Trap, in FY 2010. In addition, a 7th Battalion was created to ensure appropriate oversight, management and control of the increasing complement of field personnel and lower the station-to-battalion ratio, both of which have grown since the creation of the 6th Battalion in FY 1996. With the opening of the four new fire stations, the number of stations will increase
from 34 in FY 1996 to 38. The County also added funding and 23 positions to staff a fully dedicated hazardous materials response unit.
Increased staffing associated with the addition of a fourth person to each of the department’s Rescue Companies. Adding an additional fire technician to each rescue company will allow for quicker extrication of trapped victims by allowing crew members the ability to operate in separate teams of two in order to conduct tactical assignments such as forcible entry, primary search and fire attack. This level of staffing is consistent with National Fire Protection Standards which recommend that fire companies whose primary functions are rescue and/or incident response be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel.
> In addition, new positions were funded to provide Fire and Rescue Department staffing for the Gunston, Great Falls and Clifton areas to provide necessary EMS staffing, as well as support for tanker units in these non-hydrant areas where water supply can be an issue for fire incidents.
> Building inspectors were added for the Fire and Rescue Department to improve turnaround time for fire inspections. We have also added staff to support quality assurance and training in our Emergency Medical Services (EMS) programs and to ensure adequate Advanced Life Support staff on all of our medic units and engines.
> Based on inmate population increases, changes in state law mandating incarceration for DUI conviction, and minimum staffing requirements, we have added additional positions to staff expansion of the Adult Detention Center.
> Additional Environmental Health Specialists have been included to reestablish chemical hazard response capability within the Health Department by providing the initial industrial hygiene expertise needed to collaborate more effectively with the Fire and Rescue Department to mitigate incidents involving chemical hazards. This expertise is critical to monitoring and preventing public health exposures and environmental contamination to ground water.
> Additional staff were added to the Health Department’s Communicable Diseases/ Epidemiology/Bioterrorism Unit, including a Public Health Nurse to address the increasing demand for investigation and surveillance of diseases and outbreaks and a Community Health Specialist to educate the public regarding bioterrorism preparedness, communicable disease prevention, and Medical Reserve Corps Training. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) with over 3,000 volunteers, is utilized to staff and operate vaccination or medication dispensing sites across the County should a bioterrorist event, such as anthrax or smallpox, or a naturally occurring epidemic, such as pandemic flu, require such intervention.
> Staff was added to open the new Herndon Harbor House Adult Health Day Care Center and Senior Center, the Groveton Senior Center and the Little River Glen Adult Day Health Care Center. In addition staff was added to address mandated staff to participant ratio increases in the Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program to remain compliant with a more
strict interpretation of a state mandate, requiring six “eyes-on” staff for every ADHC participant and a new contract to provide services for senior adults who require a higher level of assistance to participate in senior activities was initiated in FY 2007. The purpose of the program is to assist seniors in sustaining involvement in social activities in the least restrictive environment, prevent further decline in their health and well being, and serve as a transition service to the Adult Day Health Care Program.
> A total of 41 new/expanded School Age Child Care (SACC) centers were added to address a need for safe before- and after-school child care. Despite these increases, there are still over 3,000 children on the waiting list to receive SACC services across all 133 schools and centers with a SACC program. Currently there are 6 elementary schools that have no SACC program.
> While not sufficient to address the total problem, 12 additional beds were added for the Domestic Violence Shelter for a total of 29 beds. We continue to address this problem as well as homelessness particularly among families. FY 2008 saw the opening of the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter. Services will focus on assisting homeless families in crisis to stabilize and obtain self-sufficiency through employment, stable housing and successful family functioning. With the opening of the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter there are a total of 6 shelters in the county.
> Continuing our commitment to the preservation of Affordable Housing, the Board approved the one-penny dedication on the real estate tax rate towards those efforts. Begun in FY 2006, that funding has helped the County preserve over 1,500 affordable housing units that otherwise would have been lost, exceeding our initial four-year goal of 1,000 units.
> Coordinated with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to implement an expansion of after school programming to all 26 FCPS middle.
> Additional Public Health Nurses and Clinic Room Aides at new County elementary and secondary schools. Public Health Nurses are responsible for developing and implementing health plans for students with identified health conditions, while Clinic Room Aides administer medication, provide care for sick and injured students, and conduct vision and hearing screenings. In addition, supplemental Public Health Nurses have been added to the School Health Services program to improve the ratio of nurses to students and address the growing number of students requiring health plans, and the increased complexity and scope of procedures performed in the school setting.
> Continuing our commitment to practicing environmental stewardship, the Board approved the dedication of one penny on the real estate tax rate for prioritized capital improvements to the County’s stormwater system. Proper management of stormwater is essential to protect public safety, preserve home values and support environmental mandates such as those aimed at protecting the Chesapeake Bay and the water quality of other local waterways. Additional funding has been included to continue the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to its Environmental Agenda. Some of the more significant projects have included: conversion of buses to
ultra-low sulfur fuel; the purchase of 5 percent of the County’s energy from wind energy; removal of invasive plants that threaten native plant communities; riparian buffer restorations: household hazardous waste events; Low Impact Development projects; trail mapping and pedestrian improvements; landfill gas utilization projects; and continued participation in the Clean Air Partners regional effort. In addition, the Board of Supervisors formally adopted a 30-year tree canopy goal in June 2007 based on recommendations in the Tree Action Plan. The Tree Action Plan is a 20-year strategy for conservation and management of the county’s tree resources in order to help combat global warming, as well as air and water pollution. The tree canopy goal is to increase Fairfax County’s tree cover to 45% by the year 2037. The goal supports the County’s new “Cool Counties” initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and programs to address air quality and global climate change. Initial funding has been provided to increase the tree canopy at Government facility parking lots, including approximately 200 shade trees at parking areas and 20 associated educational signs; and to increase the tree canopy at County facility buildings including approximately 300 shade trees and 20 associated educational signs.
> Opening two needed libraries in Burke and Oakton; and renovating existing libraries. A November 2004 bond referendum was approved by voters to fund the construction of two new libraries and the renovation of the four oldest branches including Dolley Madison in the Dranesville District, Thomas Jefferson in the Mason District, Richard Byrd in the Lee District and Martha Washington in the Mount Vernon District. The Library is also relocating the Fairfax City Regional Library through a partnership between Fairfax City and Fairfax County. Operating costs, including books and materials, are financed out of the County’s operating budget.
> Additionally the FY 2008 budget provides $2 million to acquire additional open space and park land, among many other worthwhile initiatives. In past years, we have also included funding for additional community centers to support the needs of our youth in order to provide safe, accessible recreational and developmental opportunities. The Fairfax County Park Authority has increased its land holdings in recent years and now owns approximately 23,929 acres or 9.4% of the land mass of the County. Although, acquiring land is much harder today due to increased development, a scarcity of available land and escalating prices, funding for land acquisition has been supported by the Board of Supervisors.
® The report fails to recognize cost increases in the price of goods and services which do not
correspond directly to the population/inflation factors. For example, fuel prices have increased 107% to over $20 million during this period. The cost of utilities has increased over 15% during this period. Costs of health insurance and other benefits have increased based on actual market conditions. The national employment indicates that nationwide, the total cost of benefits for state and local government increased nearly 20% within the report timeframe. In Fairfax County, the cost of health insurance alone has increased nearly 40% in this time period.
® The report makes several recommendations for budget review and oversight. These recommendations which include further County/School consolidation, citizen overview of the
budget, and public private funding partnerships. Aspects of these suggestions have already been and will continue to be incorporated in the Countv*s past, current and uncoming work plans. The Board of Supervisors has directed County and School staff to continue to work together to further consolidate services and to partner in the use of facility space. A great example of this partnering is in the development of the Community School approach at the Graham Road Elementary School. In fact, on September 24, 2006, the Board of Supervisors adopted a joint resolution between the BOS and the School Board requiring that both systems work together to determine opportunities for shared delivery of services to citizens in County and School Facilities. The resolution will be adopted by the School Board in September as well. County staff have regularly conducted program reviews of ail County agencies and instructions related to a 2008 Lines of Business (LOBs) Review have already been disseminated. It is anticipated that this information will be useful to our new BOS in early 2008 as well as be incorporated in the FY 2009 and FY 2010 budget processes.
The County continues to be effective and efficient. When benchmarked against other local governments, the County’s outcome data is very strong. The County has participated in the International City/County Management Association’s benchmarking effort since 2000. Approximately 150 cities and counties provide comparable data in the following agencies. In addition, the Auditor of Public Accounts for the Commonwealth of Virginia collects cost per capita data for each major service area. Fairfax County data compares quite competitively against other Northern Virginia, state and federal jurisdictions. Information regarding the county benchmark program can be found in the Strategic Linkages and Program Area summary sections of the Adopted Budget.
In addition, the County continues to constrain growth in County position. In FY 2008, County Positions per 1,000 residents was 11.17. This compares to 13.57 in FY \99\.J}n fact, this ratio has decreased every year except one since that time as an example of the County’s efficiency in serving residents without significant position increases.