Fairfax County began its public-input process Tuesday as 60 speakers signed up to weigh in on the proposed $6.1 billion budget being considered by the Washington region’s largest jurisdiction.
The spending plan for fiscal year 2012 would keep the real-estate property tax rate at $1.09, freeze county employee salaries for the third consecutive year and maintain current school funding levels.
Tax relief proponents argued for lower taxes and more controlled spending. Although the proposed tax rate is unchanged, the average bill would rise by about $110 because of rising home values.
Centreville resident James Parmelee called for the county to better manage its spending, especially during an economic downturn that has pinched the pockets of its residents.
“This county has grown tremendously and you guys have been drinking from a gusher of money—taxpayer money,” said Parmelee, who spoke for himself at the meeting but is also the president of Republicans For Tax Relief.
“The true crisis is in the wallets of the average taxpayer,” he said.
School funding supporters urged the board to reinstate full-day kindergarten at 37 schools. Parents and educators launched an aggressive campaign this year, reaching out to sMtate and local lawmakers.
Shaista Keating, a representative with Fairfax For Full Day Kindergarten, said that with the half-day program, teachers have the “colossal burden” of cramming lessons.
“They are cute, aren’t they? The forgotten ones,” she said pointing to girls in pigtails holding up the campaign’s signs.
Before the hearing, Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) asked the board to consider adding $7.3 million to fund full-day kindergarten at all schools. He later spoke at a rally held outside the county government center.
“Well, you have my vote. You have [supervisor] Cathy Hudgins’ vote. Now we need four more,” he told the boisterous crowd, which included educators, parents and children.
Rally attendees Heather and Dustin Drumm, who moved to Springfield from Woodbridge four years ago, said they were attracted to Fairfax’s school system.
However, last year they spent $8,000 to send their daughter to a full-day kindergarten program at a private school because one was not available at Ravensworth Elementary.
Their son begins kindergarten next year, “and we don’t want to have to do that again,” Heather Drumm said.
But perhaps the most telling testimony came from a student at the public hearing.
Flanked by his mother as he spoke before the board, Mitchell Feigenbaum of Fairfax Station expressed frustration with going to school only half the day.
“Some of my friends from pre-school have full-day kindergarten, but I wish I had it too,” he said in between nervous pauses. “I would have more time to work. I would have more time to get through everything.”
If anything, Mitchell said he was worried about his younger brother Dylan.
“He’s 5 and he starts [kindergarten] in the fall,” Mitchell said.
The public hearings will continue at 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the county government center.