Fairfax County yesterday decided to pay its long overdue $15.5 million Metrobus bill after County Board Chairman John F. Herrity compared the transit agency to an "alcoholic who has finally recognized he has a problem."
Fairfax's board of supervisors had withheld the money since July, insisting that they would not pay until Metro adopted a stricter financial management plan and made more accurate forecasts of its anticipated operating deficits.
Fairfax offocials, along with those in other jurisdictions, have become increasingly upset with Metro as the system's costs have spurted sharply upwards -- 31 percent in Fairfax alone in the current fiscal year.
Herrity has been a critic of Metro ever since it took over the private Northern Virginia bus system and replaced it with higher-paid unionized drivers. But yesterday he joined Fairfax's eight other supervisors in deciding to hand over the $15.5 million payment to Metro.
"It's like an alcoholic," Herrity said. "You have to know you're an alcoholic before you can take the cure. At least Metro now knows it has a problem."
At Fairfax's urging, all its member jurisdictions last month agreed on an 11-point plan to improve the agency's management and reporting procedures.
In what Fairfax officials regard as a crow-eating letter, Metro General Manager Richard S. Page said on March 5: "Each of the preliminary recommendations has been reviewed carefully, and I see no major obstacles to implementing them. . ."
Under the 11-point plan, Metro would have to maintain a balanced budget, not count anticipated revenues from fare increases as certain, and review the size of its programs in light of a likely curtailment of Metro-rail construction.
In other action, the Fairfax supervisors decided not to move ahead with plans to considser a controversial raising of the gross receipts tax on busineses and professions. Under one proposed increase, which would boost various tax rates to the levels of those in Alexandria, tax revenues would increase by $4.7 million to about $15.5 million.
But the supervisors, fearful of widespread opposition, voted for more study -- in effect, kiling the chance of any tax increase for the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1.