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Fairfax County executive unveils $6.7 billion budget that would boost spending 2 percent

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Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin unveiled a proposed $6.7 billion budget Tuesday that would boost spending in fiscal 2013 by about 2 percent and raise property taxes by about $34 for a typical household.

The property tax rate would stay the same, at $1.07 per $100 of assessed value, although with property values rising, tax bills would increase.

The budget calls for several fee increases, including an average $47 boost in the storm-water management levy paid by homeowners. Some Republicans on the Democratic-led County Board of Supervisors criticized the storm-water measure as a stealth tax.

Although Griffin did not urge an increase in the property tax rate, he suggested that the supervisors formally advertise a tax rate of $1.09 to give them the option of moving closer to the budget contribution requested by the Fairfax County school system.

To fully meet the School Board’s request for $2.45 billion, the Board of Supervisors would have to increase its contribution by $135.8 million, or 8.4 percent, compared with the current fiscal year. That would amount to a 3-cent jump in the real estate tax rate. Griffin said it was simply not possible.

This was the 14th county budget drafted by Griffin, 64, and it will be his last. He announced last year that he will step down this spring after more than a decade as the county’s top manager.

The spending plan reflects a modest agenda as the county shakes off the effects of a deep recession, and it distributes the burden of additional spending through a mix of higher tax collections and increased user fees.

The fiscal 2013 budget projects general fund revenue of $3.46 billion, an increase of about $112.4 million, or 3.4 percent, and an increase in spending of $59.25 million, or 1.71 percent, from the revised fiscal 2012 spending plan. Total general fund expenditures are projected at $3.521 billion.

The budget also anticipates raising the amount given to county schools for operations and debt service by about 4.5 percent, to $1.85 billion. Other features of the proposed budget include money for a 2.2 percent pay increase for county employees and for an additional 34 employees. It requests $2 million more for police.

Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason) expressed doubt that the board would boost the tax rate, but she also expressed a wish for more funding to restore cuts to libraries and parks.

Supervisor Patrick S. Herrity (R-Springfield) criticized the increase in the storm water rate from 1.5 to 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value. Increases in property tax bills and storm-water fees would cost a typical household about $79 more in the coming fiscal year, he said.

“Our homeowners are still struggling,” Herrity said in a written statement. “This budget goes back to the days of increasing the burden on our homeowners.”

But Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) applauded Griffin for striking a balance between the public’s desires for excellent services and their reluctance to pay much more in taxes.

“Managing expectations is going to be a major challenge,” Bulova said. She also would not rule out approving a higher property tax rate, at least until the public is heard.

“It really does matter what people have to say,” she said.

When Griffin finished, Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) raised a soda can to Griffin in salute, saying, “Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!”

The county executive’s budget is a blueprint. Now begins the pushing and pulling over what to fund and what to cut before the budget’s scheduled adoption May 1.

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