- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

Protest rallies are planned for tonight when supervisors begin hearings on a multibillion-dollar budget for Fairfax County, a jurisdiction that has surpassed some states in population.

Two groups are planning to rail against tax issues and a proposed pay increase for the county’s 10 supervisors.

“The Board of Supervisors’ finances are tight, and they need to conserve, not raise salaries,” said James Parmalee, chairman of Northern Virginia Republican Political Action Committee.

Although Fairfax County’s 1,058,900 population is the largest of five Metropolitan Washington jurisdictions, its $3.32 billion revenue is less than those of the District and Montgomery County.

The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, especially critical of tax increases and the public schools budget, is planning to fight what it views as excessive county requests.

“The budget is out of control. They are wasting too much,” said Arthur Purvis, president of the alliance. “We will protest yet another 10 percent increase in the real estate tax.”

Although the county is proposing a reduction in the property tax rate for the 2007 budget, the typical homeowner will pay $544 above the 2006 tax because of a spike in assessment fees. The county budget for 2007 also increases rates for refuse collection, refuse disposal, sewer service and, for new single-family homes, a sewer rate availability charge.

If the budget is approved as drafted, real estate taxes will have doubled in seven years, Mr. Purvis said.

The tax on a typical Fairfax County home was $2,407 in 2000. The suggested increase effective in 2007 would impose an annual tax of $5,029, Mr. Purvis said.

“This is an expensive school system,” Mr. Purvis said. “Public school spending has been increasing 10 times faster than enrollment. … Fairfax County Public Schools’ staff has been increasing four times faster than enrollment.”

County Executive Anthony H. Griffin is proposing an increase in the supervisors’ annual salaries from $59,000 to $75,000. The last pay increase for supervisors was approved in 1998.

Some view the positions as part-time commitments, partly because many county meetings are conducted at night, and some supervisors have full-time day jobs or working spouses.

“Many consider it to be a part-time job, but it’s not now,” said Merni Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for the board. “And, for some members of the board, theirs is the sole source of income for their family.”

Mr. Parmalee and his group oppose the pay raises.

“If taxes are so tight, why are they raising salaries so much?” Mr. Parmalee said.

If the proposal is approved, the first month’s pay to newly elected supervisors would be in January 2008.

“[Supervisors’] salaries should be raised consistent with other county salaries,” Ms. Fitzgerald said, explaining that county employees’ pay has increased about 3 percent annually.

Montgomery County has fewer residents but is paying County Council members $76,694 annually and considering a raise to $84,320, Ms. Fitzgerald said.

The Fairfax County population as of January represents a 29.4 percent increase above the 1990 census count of 818,584.

The protest rallies will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The public budget hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, in Fairfax.

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