Fairfax County Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) has issued a statistic-filled analysis arguing that fast-paced, undercontrolled growth is leading to the deterioration of public services, including education, even though more money is being spent on education than in four other districts in the area.
In her broadside, which comes as the Board of Supervisors is about to tackle the county budget for the forthcoming fiscal year, Moore said:
"School costs per taxpayer in Fairfax are the highest of four counties surveyed, while school spending per pupil lags well behind Arlington and Montgomery counties; spending for fire, police, libraries, recreation, parks and planning also lag substantially . . . not only are service levels lower in Fairfax, but employes are not as well paid."
Moore, who has complained frequently that the county was too eagerly embracing growth that was spilling over from other jurisdictions with more controls, went on:
"This growth is really unfair to the taxpayers. We can control our growth. We should put ourselves in the position where . . . we take only our fair share of growth."
During the 1970s, Fairfax passed Montgomery County to become the third most populous jurisdiction in the region. Based on current population projections, Fairfax should pass Prince George's and the District to become the most populous locality in this decade.
Moore's study, which she presented to the supervisors at their meeting Monday, immediately was attacked by some of her colleagues.
"I think we've opened a Pandora's box," said Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield), who represents the fastest growing area in the county.
"No one has ever established we have more growth, here because we are more lenient," she continued. "We have to teach builders how to build houses properly because they have gotten away with more things in other jurisdictions."
But some other supervisors rose to Moore's defense. "We should be focusing on some of these issues," said Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), whose constituents include many residents who don't have school children and are upset about their higher real estaste assessments and the increasing portion of local revenues going to schools.
In her study, Moore said a smaller portion of Fairfax County expenditures is paid by commerce and industry (as compared to Montgomery County) because of rapid residential development. She said the commercial and industrial tax base was only 13 percent in Fairfax, compared to 17 percent in Montgomery.
Most localities try to increase their commercial and industrial tax base because business generally pays more in taxes than it demands in services.
Board chairman John F. Herrity, in answer to Moore, said, "We didn't get started promoting commercial and industrial development until 1976. With its industrial corridor along I-270, Montgomery has been doing it for a longer period of time. There's no question we have a long way to go."
Herrity also said the county has a chance to make a firmer commitment to commercial and industrial growth by encouraging more business development along the Rite. 50/66 area west of Fairfax City, the 1-66 corridor, the Dulles Airport highway corridor, the Chiles Tract at the Capital Beltway and Rte. 50, and around future Metrorail stations.
The debate over the cost of growth has been going on for a decade. Some say that Virginia law is so favorable to landowners that tighter controls on growth are not legally defensible. Others maintain that rapid growth, especially when spread out rather than contained, costs far more in services than it provides in tax revenues. This school of thought also contends that Fairfax has failed to try controls that will meet the test of the Virginia courts.
To back up her analysis, Moore pointed out that Fairfax, even though it is only slightly larger than Montgomery in population, has a much larger school population. Because of its larger enrollment, the Fairfax school system is proposing a budget $72 million larger than Montgomery, not counting debt service for construction.
At the same time, Moore contends that despite its higher education bill, Fairfax spends less than Montgomery per pupil.
Moore also said that Fairfax suffers comparatively in the provision of other services. She said Fairfax spent $50 per capita on police, while Montgomery spent $66; $44 on fire to $48 for Montgomery; $38 on parks, recreation and planning to $49 for Montgomery, and $14 on libraries to $15 for Montgomery. "The costs in growth," she said, "have obviously been much greater in Fairfax, reducing funds available for either a reduction in taxes, or increases in services."