Post #271: This Wednesday, in Vienna: Talk to the Board of Supervisors candidates about schools and other issues.

Thanks to ViennaVotes (Shelley Ebert), this Wednesday (5/15/2019),  in the Vienna Community Center, from 6PM to about 9PM, you have the chance to meet the next Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member from the Hunter Mill District.  An invitation for this event is posted on this Facebook page.

All five Democratic candidates for County Board of Supervisors for the Hunter Mill district will be there.  Because Democrats dominate this seat, you should realize two things:

  1. One of these five people is likely to be your next representative on the County Board of Supervisors, and
  2. That’s likely to be determined in the June 11 Democratic primary, not in the general election.

There will probably be a Republican challenger to the Democratic candidate, but that challenger faces an uphill battle.  Democrats have held this seat in 11 of the past 13 elections.  Democrat Martha V. Pennino was the Board of Supervisors member from this district for 24 years prior to 1991.  In 1991, Republican Robert B. Dix Jr. narrowly defeated her, ran unopposed in 1995, and (after some scandals) was defeated by Democrat Catherine Hudgins in 1999.  Hudgins has held that seat since, winning by almost a 2-to-1 margin in 2003, and running unopposed in 2007, 2011, and 2015.

The Board of Supervisors controls a lot of things that directly affect qualify of life here in Fairfax County.  And, accordingly, this is likely to be a wide-ranging discussion.  So please understand, this is going to be about more than just (say) schools or taxes.  Development and growth have already come out as a key issues, particularly for the Reston area.  There, a proposal to increase allowable housing density was recently suspended.

This is advertised as an “informal debate”.  From 6:30 to 8:30, candidates will answer a series of questions about how they would treat Vienna if they were the next Board of Supervisors member.  In addition, some candidates will be present for a half-hour before (6 PM) and after (9 PM) to talk to Vienna citizens.  You won’t be able to ask questions during the debate portion of the event, but you should have the opportunity to talk to the candidates.

Why does this matter to you?  Or to the candidates?  After all, we’re just a small town, and by and large, our town government handles things here in Vienna, right?

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors controls a roughly $4.2 billion “general revenues” budget.  (That is, funds that are not specifically devoted to particular areas, such as the sewer and water system.)  They control the use of most of your real estate taxes, and most of the local portion of the sales tax. And, ultimately, they control issues such as zoning for areas outside of the incorporated Towns and Cities in Fairfax County.

Let me point out a few things.

First, we account for 13 percent of the population of the Hunter Mill district.  Roughly speaking, one out of eight voters in this district lives within the Town of Vienna.  So, we matter.  (Calculated from this .pdf of detailed population data on the Fairfax County website.)

Second, we pay a disproportionate share of Fairfax County real estate taxes. Our population amounts to about 1.4 percent of the entire county, but our real estate taxes account for about 2.5 percent of Fairfax County real estate taxes.   No surprise, given the cost of housing in the Town of Vienna.  (Calculated from budget data from the Town of Vienna and Fairfax County as:  ((Vienna taxes/0.00225)*0.013)/Fairfax County taxes)

Third, real estate taxes, in turn, cover two-thirds of the general revenues received by the county. That’s the blue slice of the pie below.  So in the general scheme of things, our tax revenues matter to the County.

 

Fourth, we largely take care of ourselves, in terms of public safety, public works, and so on.  There is some revenue sharing with the county, but we more-or-less pay the full County tax rate.  So, per the second point above, we pay more than our share of the cost of Fairfax County public safety … and then we provide that service, for ourselves.

Fifth, the single largest expense in the County general operating revenues budget is schools.  That’s the blue slice in the pie chart below.  That’s the service that Fairfax provides for us that we cannot provide for ourselves.

My point?  It was just a couple of Town Council meetings ago when Councilman Majdi talked about “generational trailers” at our schools.  He attended one of the Vienna elementary schools as a kid, and at that time, some of the classes were held in trailers.  Now his children are almost at the age where they will attend the same school — and they are still holding some classes in trailers.  An entire generation of children has passed through that school, with classes held in trailers.

I no longer have children in the Fairfax County public schools, so this isn’t my fight.  But for those of you who do, maybe you should start prodding your Town Council — and particularly the newly elected Town Council members — to start some kind of conversation with Fairfax about fair treatment.  If we take care of our own public safety and public works functions — and continue to pay our share of Fairfax County costs there — hey, maybe they could do a little better by us, for our schools.  Which Fairfax County alone controls.

There is plenty of other stuff to talk about, in terms of Fairfax County governance.  But one clear bottom line is that one of these five people is going to have a major role in setting the Fairfax County budget — on our behalf.  Most of that budget is for schools.

I realize the School Board has the final say on these things.  But if you ever want to get your kids out of trailers in the local schools, this might just be a nice place to start.  Make yourself seen at this meeting.  Make yourself heard at this meeting.  And vote in the Democratic primary on June 11, because that’s where this seat will be decided.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  If we all act like we’re perfectly happy with things as they are — why should they care about us?