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
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
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.
NO CAR TAX
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
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
Rather than undermine the new governor's
attempt to phase out the car tax, our elected
officials should reverse the tax increases of the
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
JOIN THE FAIRFAX COUNTY TAXPAYERS ALLIANCE
Letter From A New Member
The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
PO Box 356
Fairfax, VA 22030
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.
Robert W. Schreiber
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
REPORT ON ANNUAL MEETING
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
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
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.
WHY YOUR TAXES WON'T GO DOWN.
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
- 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
- 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:
FAIRFAX COUNTY ANNOUNCES
PROPOSED REVISION OF RATES, FEES AND CHARGES
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
*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.