Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Essential Government Services?

How do you define "essential government services"? The issue of that definition will play a big part in the next budget in Fairfax County.

Check out this letter to the editor, from the November 22, 2009 edition of the Washington Post:

Parks and libraries are essentials

I applaud the Nov. 15 Metro article "Fiscal outlook grim for 2 Fairfax agencies," alerting Fairfax County residents that the public library system and the Park Authority are being asked to submit proposed budgets for fiscal 2011 with 15 percent cuts.

I do not share County Executive Anthony H. Griffin's opinion that these two agencies' services are "discretionary." Resources and services provided by parks and libraries attract new residents and visitors to Fairfax County, and both agencies have seen an increase in users over the past year. It is shocking that the county is choosing not to protect and manage such valuable resources.

It is time for Mr. Griffin and the County Board of Supervisors to seriously discuss and implement ways to generate increased revenue rather than putting all of their effort into cutting services.

Kathi McNeil, Alexandria

The writer is president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park.
The article referenced in the above letter to the editor is HERE. Please read the entire article to get a full picture of some of the cuts proposed for other agencies, including public safety agencies, in this time of a $318 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year. Apparently, Ms. McNeil is concerned about the following portion:
"The reality is that there is no requirement or mandate to provide many of the library and park programs being offered like there is with our other services," [Fairfax County Executive] Griffin said. "Parks and libraries are essentially discretionary programs. And we have to look at it in the context of, if they don't get cut, what does?"
Real-estate owners and taxpayers are already groaning under the load of real-estate taxes, and the rate of foreclosures is high enough already. Furthermore, even though assessments of property values were lowered this year, the rate of taxation was jacked up so that most property owners are paying the same amount in taxes as two years before, previous to the housing-market crash. Indeed, many property owners are faced with the situation of having no equity or greatly reduced equity in their homes, essentially trapping home owners and even renters in Fairfax County. The increase in homelessness is also a matter of concern. A lot of Northern Virginia residents have tightened their belts as far as their belts will go!

The grim situation outlined above is one faced throughout all counties in Northern Virginia and throughout the United States. And Ms. McNeil is stressing over libraries and parks? She must be living in an ivory tower!

Ms. McNeil, how do you propose to raise county revenues without taxing property owners even more? Reality check, please.

I love the public library, as my regular readers know, the parks not so much as I rarely use them. But if it comes to a choice between reduced services at libraries and parks or another increase in real-estate taxes, I choose the former.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 11/24/2009 04:00:00 AM