Sully District Council Meeting of 25 June 2003
by Jeff Parnes
  1. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Kate Hanley was the guest speaker at the June meeting of the Sully District Council. This would be the last time she will attend in her present capacity.
    • Fairfax County has invested in its current infrastructure
      • The new Sully Police station is the first one built in 20 years. Overall, the countyís infrastructure is relatively new and well maintained
      • Our investment in Metro can be see on days like today, the fourth busiest on record (Clinton Inaugural, Million Man March, Pro Israel March) because it was Code Red day
      • Public education expenditures are not just for the kids of today, but an investment in the future quality of life
      • Public health partnerships help our varied population
      • If we donít make the expenditures today there will need to be a future pay back. Our neighboring counties donít have full-time professional fire fighters (Prince William and Loudoun) or police (Loudoun only has a sheriffís department).
    • Budget crunch has cause the county to balance needs versus fees
      • The county was originally going to charge fees for restricted parking zone stickers, but when the costs associated with stickers for each car, the Board balanced the cost of the stickers against the inherent right to park in your neighborhood. They decided not charge for the fees.
      • Should bus transit fares cover the cost of the service, or should the community, gaining by less pollution and fewer cars on the road, ensure that the service is attractively priced?
      • How does one quantify funds spent on public safety? The countyís crime and associated statistics are low, and if the rates were rising it would be too late then to start pouring the money on those service, the funding has to be preventive.
      • Counties in Virginia have different taxing authority than cities. Cities can tax meals, hotels, cigarettes without holding referendums first.
      • Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax are in all the same boat, heavily dependent on real estate taxes, with taxes derived from commercial real estate lagging behind residential taxes.
      • Sales tax revenues continue to decrease, showing no sign of an economic upturn.
      • With ever-lower interest rates, the county investments are returning close to $40 million less in income than just two years ago.
      • The car tax situation has worked out to the countyís advantage. With more cars, and more expensive cars, and a higher tax rate than downstate, this is one tax program run by the state where county receives more than its fair share. The original estimate of the cost of the program was $600 million, while its actual cost is $1.2 billion, and it hasnít been fully implemented. The car tax hasnít been rescinded, just the obligation partially assumed by the state
      • Fairfax County has retained its AAA bond rating. Minnesota was just downgraded. The county helps retain its current bond rating by ensuring its two percent rainy day fund and keeping the payment of the bond debt service less than ten percent of its budget. Issuing more bonds or lowering county receipts could change the percentage of budget associated with debt repayment
      • The county has delegated the bond sales to its Chief Financial Officer rather than reserving that function to board itself. The county has to juggle the issuing of bonds authorized for park, school, traffic and public safety improvements carefully balancing the repayment percentage against the needs of county.
      • Increased homeland security needs require capital improvements to the countyís Emergency Operations Center in the old Pine Ridge Elementary school. The school was designed with an open plan, and now needs to have access controlled. The cafeteria needs to be upgraded from just lunchtime use to round the clock service. The technology installed needs to be redundant - one of the few times where the term redundant support isnít a bad thing.
    • Air Quality
      • The metropolitan area missed their air quality goals, and although the EPA gave an extension for it to come into compliance, they were sued and lost. EPA now categorizes the area as non-compliant.
      • The constrained long-range plan now needs to take into consideration the areas non-compliance. The current plan lapses in January 2004, and if it is not approved by that date, it can adversely influence federal transportation finding. There shouldnít seem to be a problem in meeting the 2007 goals, but meeting the 2005 goals may be a hardship. There are pollution control requirements that can used when computing the 2007 pollution load that cannot be considered in 2005.
      • Pollution sources can be categorized as:
        • Point (generating plants, open burning, etc)
        • Mobile (vehicular) - although heavy duty diesel traffic makes up only 3% of the traffic they are responsible for 30% of the pollutants. Stricter pollution controls for SUVs, which make up a larger percentage of the vehicle mix than originally predicted, wonít be in place until 2007.
        • Area (paint coatings, drycleaners, etc) - it may be necessary to adopt California type restrictions on paint formulations
        • Off-road (construction vehicles, tractors, lawn mowers, etc) - pollution controls wonít be in place until 2007
      • There will be impacts and costs to the general community associated with meeting air quality goals. Reformulated paints are one example, and contracting with firms that agree to use equipment conforming to the 2007 requirements before that date are ways to bring the area into conformance, but have a price that need to be paid.
      • Air quality improvements canít wait for Code Red days but must implemented in a systematic manner in an attempt to avoid future Code Red days
    • Questions from the floor:
      • With multiple arsons reported in the Timberlakes area, can the county require security patrols by contractors as part of the permitting process?
        • The county has lost battles with the state on fire safety before - it wanted firewalls between townhouses to go all the way to the roof, but the state code, which overrides the county code, only requires it to go up a lower height.
        • She will discuss this with the appropriate office
      • What preparations has the county made in case of mass-shelters?
        • Local schools are the primary shelter locations. The county started its shelter planning in preparation for Y2K, when it was possible thereíd be no electricity.
        • The experiences of 11 September showed that there unexpected consequences to actions that were thought reasonable.
          • The DC government asked to shut down Metro. Metroís general manager contacted the FBI and asked about the risk factor, who told there him that there were no known risks. In consultation with the other jurisdictions, he decided to keep Metro open. They did run test trains under the Pentagon to ensure its safety. Imagine the impact if Metro had been down that day.
          • VDOT decided to remove HOV restrictions from the highways, causing buses to miss their turnaround schedules and causing pile ups at the stations as Metro discharged its passengers with no buses to take them home
      • Why arenít county leaders being more assertive in response to a proposed five percent tax rate cap?
        • There are problems with caps. First, the county has not sought to emulate those jurisdictions that have imposed these caps, such as Prince Georges in Maryland. In California, some say it has ruined their educational system.
        • The terms of the cap are unclear. Will it apply to both residential and commercial property? The state might rule that both classes have to be treated equally and giving commercial property owners a break wonít make sense. Does the cap apply across the board, to the average rise, or to individual units? The state has a constitutional provision that would prevent the California method of only reappraising property upon sale - property of equal value has to be assessed equally
        • Bond debt has to be met - it is impossible to sell more bonds while decreasing the funds available to pay them off

  2. Elections: Jim Hart, nominations committee chair, proposed the following slate of officers which the council unanimously approved:
    1. President: Mark McConn
    2. First Vice President: Jeffrey Parnes
    3. Second Vice President: Judith Heisinger
    4. Secretary: Carol Hawn
    5. Treasurer: Larry Tessier

  3. The next membership meeting will be 24 September 2003. The Land Use and Transportation Committee will meet 7 July, 4 August and 8 and 29 September 2003.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Jeffrey M. Parnes
    Chair, Sully District Council
    Land Use and Transportation Committee

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    modified by Jeffrey M. Parnes