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1998 Spring Bulletin

 "In spite of attempts by the former County Executive, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and perhaps some members of the Board to eliminate the function in the budget process for Fiscal Year 1997, the audit function has been established and a new auditor is in place."

By James J. Hogan

Fairfax County is organized under State of Virginia law as the Urban County Executive form of Government. The members of the Board of Supervisors are elected within their magisterial districts. Only the Chairman of the Board is elected at large. The members are elected to part time positions and their compensation reflects that. This limits competition for the elected office to people who can afford to run for the position.

Under the Urban County Executive form of Government, the County Executive is appointed by the Board of Supervisors and serves at the pleasure of the Board. The County Executive however has an employment contract with the Board, which makes it rather expensive if the Board determines his or her services are no longer desired.

The majority of a Supervisors' time is spent dealing with constituent matters within their geographic district. They also have some countywide involvement on committees both within the county structure and representing the county on statewide, area wide and even national committees. I have heard more than one Supervisor say they have to work full time on a part time job.

In 1993 the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County decided that they needed an independent auditor reporting to the Board to conduct audits and evaluations and provide reports directly to the Board. An assistant to the former Chairman conducted extensive research and drafted a mission statement and position description for the auditor. The function was approved and in the spring of 1994, an auditor was hired. An Audit Committee of the Board was established consisting of three members of the Board and two Fairfax County citizens distinguished by their significant corporate management and audit experience.

The establishment of the position and hiring of an independent auditor made sense because the Board had no central staff to conduct audits, studies or reviews. The auditor reported directly to the board on matters concerning the county. In addition, the function provided an avenue for citizens to take if they did not receive appropriate attention from a county agency or if a citizen or an employee had a complaint against the county and did not believe that reporting the complaint to the county executive would provide a satisfactory result. The auditor could then bring the matter to the attention of the audit committee for consideration. A hotline was established to facilitate citizen reporting.

I was hired as the Auditor to the Board and was given two positions to fill in addition to mine. I hired a seasoned veteran from an adjoining county and an experienced administrative assistant who had previous experience in the county. With this small staff, over my 21 months of tenure, we conducted several significant program reviews and evaluations and provided reports to the Board on matters designated by the Audit Committee. These reports were distributed to the Board and are public information.

Needless to say, some of the information in the reports was not popular with some managers in the county and they responded by writing strident responses and getting the controversy published in local newspapers. Other managers worked behind the scenes to try to discredit the Office of the Auditor to the Board by spreading misinformation and taking things out of context to the supervisors.

All of this activity with respect to independent reports was expected by me when I accepted the position but the unexpected problem was the total lack of communication and support from the board of supervisors. I think this was partly because it was a new function and partly because supervisors were reluctant to accept the analysis of an independent auditor over the long time county employee they had been used to working with during their tenure. The county employees were protecting their turf just like any other organization, public or private.

I still believe significant efficiencies can be accomplished in the county if the board has the ability to look within the operations of the county and the courage to sometimes take the unpopular road . It is not sufficient to hire consultants who are retained for brief periods of time and respond only to the requirements of a contract.

The county already has the potential to change course and use the capabilities they have within to accomplish efficiencies. In spite of attempts by the former County Executive, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and perhaps some members of the Board to eliminate the function in the budget process for Fiscal Year 1997, the audit function has been established and a new auditor is in place.

The county also has an Internal Audit Staff of about ten, which has a mission somewhat similar to the Auditor to the Board. This staff conducts audits, evaluations and other projects at the direction of the County Executive. This staff should be combined with the Auditor to the Board to provide adequate staffing for the function.

As a taxpayer, I would strongly support the combination of the Internal Audit Staff with the Auditor to the Board for at least two reasons. The staff would have the independence needed to perform their audits and evaluations without fear of retribution or the subtle pressures of superiors and the reports produced by the staff would not be cloaked in secrecy under the Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

In summary, I believe more efficient and effective Government would result from having truly independent reviews of the operations of the County conducted by the Auditor to the Board and having all of those reviews available in their entirety to the Board and to the public.


Gilmore's Critics Are Unwilling to Control Spending

In the recent gubernatorial election, Virginia's Governor-elect Jim Gilmore led his slate to victory by promising to phase out the personal property tax on cars. The magnitude of his victory demonstrates the taxpayers' desire for lower taxes. Nevertheless, Gilmore's critics advocate replacing the personal property tax with an increase in some other tax.

While recent newspaper articles have reported that Virginia has held the line on taxes, Fairfax County has not. This newsletter has already reported that during the 80s, Fairfax County per-capita taxes increased nearly twice as fast as inflation. Since 1975 the county has spent $9 billion more dollars than was required to keep up with inflation and population. County staff has increased by 68% vs. a 55% increase in county population since 1980. Incredibly, since 1975 school staff has increased more than four times as fast as enrollment (55% vs. 13%). As a result of the tax increases the county is collecting an extra $900 million each year. If county spending had increased no faster than population and inflation since 1975, the personal property tax, which raises $340 million, and the BPOL tax, which raises $75 million, could have both been eliminated years ago.

Last August, the Taxpayers Alliance wrote both the chairman of the School Board and of the Board of Supervisors to request an accounting for how the $9 billion was spent. The letter and the chairmen's responses were featured in Washington Post Fairfax Section articles about the "$9 Billion Question" on 8/14/97 and 9/25/97. Both chairmen acknowledged the increase. The School Board listed all programs that increased faster than enrollment and inflation; the Board of Supervisors did not.

Staffing for most school programs has increased much faster than enrollment since 1978. General education programs have increased nearly three times the increase in enrollment and special education by more than eleven times the increase in enrollment. At the same time, most county programs have increased faster than population and inflation since 1975. Public safety has increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation and population growth while employee benefits have increased more than three times as fast. Unfortunately, during this same time, school maintenance and public works were neglected.

The school administration's proposed FY99 budget, released January 8, continues to increase school staff faster than enrollment. However, more teaching, administrative, and counseling personnel have not raised academic achievement. The average SAT score is at the 65th percentile, and the School Board is now concerned that students will not do well on the new state-mandated achievement tests. Student behavior is deteriorating. The Board of Supervisors now wants to station police in all middle schools. Although there is evidence that more traditional reading and arithmetic instruction would reduce the demand for special education services and would increase overall achievement, the school administration still refuses to even pilot phonics-based reading instruction in regular classrooms.

Both school and county spending on employee benefits has soared. It is difficult to analyze the growth in the county budget since the Board of Supervisors has not provided a complete list of programs that have increased faster than population and inflation.

Rather than undermine the new governor's attempt to phase out the car tax, our elected officials should reverse the tax increases of the 80s.

By Arthur Purves - President FCTA

Stop the Stadium

When the plutocrats of Northern Virginia decided they wanted a major league baseball team they would not consider putting the team in RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. A stadium that was originally built as a baseball stadium, a stadium that is centrally located with excellent subway access, a stadium with all the attributes baseball fans want in a stadium was rejected because it was not new.

Let us quickly review why a Virginia stadium is a spectacularly bad idea. There is not money to build it; that is why the Virginia Baseball Club wants the government to build it. It will be built with state bonds. A special lottery will be created to pay off the bonds, diverting funds from the current lottery that pays for schools. The lottery revenue will go into the general fund and be tracked to show potential for revenue generation. If the stadium is built and the funds from the lottery are insufficient the balance must be made up from the general fund. Future taxes generated by the stadium will be rebated to the stadium authority. The public gets to give and private interest gets to receive. Nice work if you can get it.

Kenneth Corvo, chairman of the stadium authority, wants to buy options to buy land at potential sites to beat price jumps. He expects to confront the public with a fait accompli. It is the obligation of those of us who oppose the stadium to stop him.

The next step will be taken by the General Assembly, where the Appropriations and Finance Committees evaluate the proposed stadium lottery. It is urgent that you write your Senator and Delegate to let them know you oppose the stadium. As the daughter of a politician I can assure you that the most effective letters are short and polite. Handwritten letters are best, assuming your handwriting is clear. Members of the Fairfax delegation are: Senators Patsy Ticer, Janet Howell, Charles Waddell, Jane Wood, Richard Saslaw, Joseph Gartlan, Warren Barry, Delegates William Mims, Joe May, Vince Callahan, Jean Marie Devolites, Kenneth Plum, John Rust, Robert Hall, Vivian Watts, James O'Brien, James Dillard, David Albo, Gladys Keating, Linda Puller, Marian Van Landingham, James Almand, Bob Brink, James Scott, and Robert McClure. Their Richmond address is General Assembly of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

I would also recommend writing your supervisor: Chairman Kate Hanley, Sharon Bulova of Braddock, Stuart Mendelsohn of Dranesville, Robert Dix of Hunter Mill, Dana Kauffman of Lee, Penny Gross of Mason, Elaine McConnell of Springfield, Gerry Connolly of Providence and Gerry Hyland of Mount Vernon. The Planning Commission will take no action until they are presented with a site, but it is never too early to write: Chairman Peter F. Murphy, Walter L. Alcorn, John R. Byers, Carl A. S. Coan, Judith W. Downer, Janet Hall, Suzzanne F. Harsel, John W. Hunter, John B. Kelso, Ronald W. Koch, John M Palatiello, and Alvin L. Thomas. Letters should be sent in care of the Fairfax County Planning Commission, 12000 Government Center Parkway #330, Fairfax, VA 22035-0042.

Finally, I would appeal to the baseball fans amongst you. Write to William L Collins, Chairman of the Virginia Baseball Club, Kenneth Corvo, Chairman of the Stadium Authority, and Gage Paul, Executive Director, and explain why RFK Stadium is the ideal site. Letters should be sent to their offices: Virginia Stadium Authority, Post Office Box 9346, McLean 22102-0346. From human rights to zoning disputes, letter writing campaigns have a long record of success. We can make the critical difference. In closing I would urge you to write one more letter, to Bud Selig, Acting Commissioner, c/o Milwaukee Brewers, 201 South 46th, Milwaukee, WI 53214-319.

by Alice M. Marshall


Letter From A New Member

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

PO Box 356

Fairfax, VA 22030

Dear Sirs:

At the September meeting of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations, I picked up a copy of the Alliance's Summer 1997 newsletter with the lead article about the increases in per-capita taxes, school spending and County government spending since 1975. I also saw the article in The Washington Post about the differing responses you received from the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. I just want to lend my support for this type of analysis and publicity that the Alliance is doing.

As chairman of the newly-formed Civic Affairs Committee of the Lake Barcroft Association, Inc., I have proposed that our 1998 budget include membership in the Alliance. Hopefully, the Alliance will receive our dues early in the coming year.

Sincerely yours,

Robert W. Schreiber

Falls Church

If the mailing label on your newsletter has a date on it that date specifies when your membership expires. If there is no date, then this is a complimentary copy of the newsletter.

If your membership has expired, please renew your membership right away. If you received a complimentary copy, please join the Alliance. If you believe a friend would be interested in joining, please call the Alliance's voice mail at 642-5567 and give us their address so we can send them a complimentary newsletter.

Dues are $15 per year. A membership form is on the back cover of this newsletter.

This year the Alliance, along with the business community and environmental and civic groups, opposed the proposed stormwater utility fee, which would have cost homeowners an extra $27 to $50 per year. It was in this context that the August and September Washington Post articles on the "$9 Billion Question" (see the article on page 3) appeared. The Board of Supervisors abandoned the fee last November. However, the issue will probably resurface since the county has spent $685,000 to develop a computer database to implement this fee.

The Alliance is building a case to reverse the tax increases that occurred during the 80s. Because of those increases, the typical Fairfax County household is paying an extra $800 of taxes per year and has paid an extra $6000 since 1990. In addition, citizens pay for commercial tax increases, which are passed along to customers. Since 1975 commercial taxes collected by Fairfax County have increased 360%, when adjusted for inflation.

In addition to publishing this newsletter, the Alliance testifies at school, county, and state public hearings and writes press releases and letters to the editor. Speakers who represent organizations that receive government funding dominate public hearings. The Alliance is one of the few participants that present the taxpayers' perspective. In addition to the two Washington Post articles about the "$9 Billion Question," the Alliance was invited by the Fairfax Journal to write a 10/23/97 column opposing the school bond referendum. It was published opposite a column supporting the referendum and written by a PTA leader. An Alliance letter opposing the referendum also appeared in the 11/2/97 Outlook section of the Washington Post. The 7/2/97 Outlook section carried an Alliance letter on the substantial spending increases incurred by the outgoing superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools. Alliance viewpoints and letters also appear in the Washington Times, Connection, Sun newspapers, and the Times Community newspapers. The Virginia Parent News has published Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance graphs and press releases several times.

The Alliance needs a large membership to strengthen its message. Please join today, and encourage your friends to join.


The annual membership meeting of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance was held Tuesday, October 21, 1997, at the Chapel Square Center in Annandale.

The Alliance was honored to have as its guest speaker, Mr. Jim Hogan, former auditor of Fairfax County. Mr. Hogan's remarks appear in an article in this newsletter.

At the meeting the Alliance elected Mark Collins, of Reston, as the new Second Vice President to complete the remaining year of the two-year term of John Page, who moved out of the county. The following were elected as District Directors:

Dick Epperson - Mount Vernon

Warren Hill - Mason

Al Marcy - Sully

Elizabeth Smith - Dranesville

Lou Di Leonardo - Braddock

District Directors serve two-year terms.

Ed Kampmann, who served for many years as the Lee District Director, resigned due to health reasons. We will miss Ed and appreciate his long service to the taxpayers of Fairfax County.

The officers of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance are:

President - Arthur Purves

First Vice President - Tom Pfister

Second Vice President - Mark Collins

Treasurer - Tom Beck

Secretary - Perry Young

At-Large Directors - Roger McKinley, Mary Caliandro, Doug Barylski, Robert Beck and Ludwig Benner.

District Directors: Dick Epperson, Warren Hill, Al Marcy, Elizabeth Smith, and Lou Di Leonardo

The Alliance would like to thank Ed Pechan for maintaining the membership database and Ray Coggin, for mailing the newsletters.

In addition to mailing the newsletter to members, the April newsletter was also mailed to a list provided by School Board member Mychele Brickner. The summer newsletter was distributed to the county committees of both the Republican and Democrat parties. The Fall newsletter, which opposed the school bond referendum, was distributed in Fairfax County Public Libraries. Newsletters were also mailed to candidates for state delegate, to the Board of Supervisors, to the School Board, and to reporters and editors of local newspapers. In 1997, the Alliance initiated an Internet Wide World Website at http://www.crosslink.net/~fcta.


Do you know about Fairfax County's 1999 and 2000 government spending policy? Pity, because it assures that your taxes won't come down in the near future if the County has its way.

On April 21, 1997, the Board of Supervisors adopted budget guidelines for Fiscal Years 1999 through 2000 which "limit increases in expenditures to projected increases in revenues." Increases are projected by county officials to be approximately 4.0 percent. This is the basis for creating Fairfax County's 1999 budget. Fairfax officials consider that resources available in FY 1999 will continue to be "severely limited."

Sounds good, doesn't it - limit increases, no deficit spending, balanced budgets, living within our means - all the right words. BUT, don't be seduced. What does that policy really mean to Fairfax County taxpayers? Look at the source of revenues shown on page 66 of the County's 1998 Adopted Budget Plan:

1998 Revenue Sources $ Millions % of total

General Property tax 1,237.4 70.9%
General other local taxes 292.4 16.7%
Revenue from State government 76.6 4.4%
Revenue for Federal government 32.2 1.8%
Revenue from use of money and property 40.8 2.3%
Revenue from charges for services 27.4 1.6%
Revenue from permits, fees and licenses 25.9 1.5%
Fines, forfeitures 7.8 0.4%

Recovered costs, other revenue 5.5 0.3%
Total revenues 1,746.2 100.0%

More than 90% of Fairfax County revenues come directly from local sources - Fairfax County taxpayers! Thus the policy means our local government's spending will be based on local taxpayers' prosperity, rather than hard-headed determination of needs for government services.

Said another way, every time you get a promotion or better job with a raise in pay, the county government's projected revenues will increase, and thus the County will automatically spend more money. Every time you improve your property, your assessment will increase, and the county government will spend more money. Every time a business grows, the county BPOL income will increase, and it will spend more money. Every time inflation adds to your property value, assessments increase, and the county will spend more money.

The harder taxpayers as a group work to get ahead, the more money the county will spend. Where is there any incentive among our elected government representatives or administrators to reduce the tax burden if the county has a GUARANTEED INCOME stream - a fixed proportion of your personal economic gains?

Under the Supervisor's budgeting policy if the county cuts an expenditure in one area it will simply transfer the money to spend it in another area. If crime goes down and we need less police and judicial services, the savings will be transferred to the next program on the politicians' or administrators' wish list. If social services or construction costs go down, same results. If conscientious employees save money on interest on county bonds or administrative costs or anything else, same results.

Under this GUARANTEED INCOME policy, the probability of taxpayers getting a tax reduction is easy to predict: nil. Taxpayers can point out areas to save money on specific programs until they are blue in the face, but

they won't see any tax cuts. Under this policy, our elected political representatives and top-level County Government managers have absolutely NO INCENTIVE to reduce the tax burden on taxpayers.

To fix this situation, Fairfax County's budgeting and spending policy must change. Ideally, Supervisors would cap spending at the previous year's level for several years to allow for the excess expenditures detailed in a previous FCTA news letter ("FAIRFAX COUNTY TAXES INCREASE NEARLY 400% SINCE 1975"). County budgeting policy, at a minimum, should change from a projected revenue to a needs basis, and require ALL county budget requests to:

- be justified by objectively defined needs, life-cycle cost projections and identification of the beneficiaries,

- provide an objective assessment of all reasonably feasible alternatives - government or private - that could satisfy those needs,

- be accompanied by a clear definition of program success (and failure), and what would trigger an end to or reduction in the expenditure. Simply saying more money is needed because the population is increasing must be made unacceptable.

Perhaps a new policy could be used to address the incentives problem. Such a policy could provide incentives to government employees for their initiatives to reduce taxes. Perhaps an incentive like sharing in actual tax reductions achieved, rather than rewards for expenditure reductions that are absorbed elsewhere in the government, would be another valuable step for taxpayers.

By Ludwig Benner

Does anybody care?

Here's another example of how Fairfax County Schools' past expenditures on overhead growth are costing taxpayers a bundle.

The Fairfax County budget calls for funds to build or improve school buildings. The numbers make one wonder how County funds are being spent.

A look at the numbers suggests we are not being told the whole story - again. The budget indicates the average costs will be around $300,000 per room. Because of the growth of overhead, funds for schools will have to be borrowed. What they don't tell you is that the cost of money to finance the work will add 50% to the costs, so the real costs are more than $460,000 per room. The difference in per room costs is also striking, ranging from a low of $275,000 to a high of $608,684. Why?

Both the level of per room costs, and the wide cost differences raise other questions. Surely there must be other options for providing class rooms for our County Students. What alternatives has the School Board considered? What alternative designs and feature changes can be used to reduce these costs?

By Ludwig Benner

*Source Advertised Capital Improvement Plan, FY 1997-2001 pgs 16-17.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Weekly Agenda, Dec. 8, p 3.

For Your Information:



The Fairfax County Water Authority is proposing a revision of its Schedule of Rates, Fees and Charges to coincide with meter readings taken on or after April 1, 1998. Included among the proposed revisions is an increase in the Water Usage (Commodity) Charge of $1.15 per 1,000 gallons to $1.20 per 1,000 gallons. The proposed Water Usage Charge would result in an estimated increase of $1.20 per quarter for the average residential customer.

A public hearing on the proposed revision is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, 1998 at 8 p.m. at the Authority's office. Those who would like to speak at the hearing, obtain a description of proposed changes to the Schedule of Rates, Fees and Charges, or complain about the rate change may contact the Authority at (703) 698-5600.


Submitted by Al Marcy

"The new Fairfax County schools superintendent, on the job less than a week, will ask county supervisors today to spend an extra $48.6 million next year - more than $17 million over a cap set in April to close a looming deficit."

"Facing a $26.8 million shortfall, supervisors want county spending for schools to rise no more than 3.8 percent. The proposed budget to be submitted by Daniel A. Domenech would increase spending 5.9 percent and include pay raises for school employees and a pilot program to begin year-round schooling."

"Mr. Domenech will be treading on the same ground as his predecessor, Robert R. Spillane, whose refusal to follow spending guidelines set by supervisors was one of the reasons he was fired by them."

"The School Board will vote Feb. 12 to adopt the budget, and the supervisors will vote to adopt their budget - which will include the school budget - on April 27. The School Board members will make final adjustments to their budget May 28. They will hold public hearings on their budget . . . May 21" (Emphasis added).

*Source: Jeremy Redmon, "Fairfax schools chief backs budget above board's limit," The Washington Times, January 8, 1998, Metropolitan Section, pgs 3 and 7.


Written in conjunction with Lou Di Leonardo

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance is dedicated to informing county taxpayers of the high tax burden that has been placed upon each of us. For instance, largely due to the demands of the school system, since 1975, per-capita taxes have increased at nearly twice the rate of inflation. And while student test scores continue to drop, the school administration attempts to maintain the status quo by offering the same tired solution - if the taxpayers will only provide more money "for the children" then all will be well. Taxpayers have done their part. Between 1975 and 1997, school spending has increased by 465% while inflation has increased by 198%. (See FCTA Alert above for another example of why taxes are out of control)

It has become almost a "tradition" for the Board of Supervisors to project a budget deficit each year while ending the year with a surplus that is gleefully spent on everyone's wish list except the taxpayers. The FCTA is dedicated to reminding both the public and the Board of Supervisors that the board has been hired to secure goods and services, at the best value possible, for county residents.

For those organizations interested in learning more about how their tax money is being spent, FCTA president Arthur Purves is available to speak to your group. For future taxpayers, Mr. Purves will also be available to speak to school assemblies as well as to those representing school newspapers. For more information, please contact the FCTA at P.O. Box 356, Fairfax Va. 22030 or call us at 703-642-5567.