Fairfax County's budget, development and traffic along the Route 1 corridor, and the possibility of a county meals tax were the focus of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce's "Breakfast with the Supervisors" on Wednesday morning at the Belle Haven Country Club.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay and School Board Member Dan Storck updated chamber members on recent developments in the districts and the county before fielding questions from the audience.
Fairfax County Budget
Storck kicked off the morning by framing the county's budget, a large portion of which goes to public schools.
"I know that it is a lot of money," Storck said. "But I also know that it makes a huge difference in quality of life in Mount Vernon. I know it makes a huge difference in the...housing and retail market and the other things that make our economy grow in this area."
Mount Vernon schools, he said, are some of the neediest.
"It is a needs-based budget," Stock said. "In this area we have a number of schools that are very needy."
While Storck highlighted the importance of the public schools in the county's budget, McKay expressed relief for a stronger budget outlook this year as compared to recent years.
"When I look at the budget this year," McKay said, "it's refreshing that we're not looking at widespread cuts like we have done in past years to vital services."
The search for a replacement for retiring FCPS Superintendent Jack Dale has begun, and Stock said FCPS is working with an outside firm to make the decision. He said the board hopes to have a replacement for Dale within the year.
Route 1 Development
Hyland gave a condensed version of his Virtual Bus Tour, starting down near Fort Belvoir with the $180 million Route 1 widening project between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, and ending with the "exciting synergy" of development at Penn Daw and Huntington.
The upcoming development, Hyland said, is clear evidence of Route 1's growth, and the supervisor took aim at critics who denigrated the corridor.
"If it's the armpit of Fairfax County, then an awful lot of smart people are pretty dumb to be coming to Richmond Highway and being willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop property," Hyland said.
Hyland said the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations (MVCCA) is considering a resolution to support a meals tax in Fairfax County. The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce has opposed the tax in the past due to its direct effect on restaurants.
This "juxtaposition" of the businesses and the chamber with the citizens and the civic associations, according to Hyland, calls for a deeper look into the merit of the tax.
Hyland supports the meals tax, saying,"...having an additional way to raise revenue other than real estate and property really is something that makes sense."
FCPS and the county's roads would most likely directly benefit from a meals tax, Hyland said.
"The meals tax, which I'm going to ask the board to put to referendum in November, can only pass if you dedicate the revenue and say we're going to spend it and make sure that's the only place we can spend it," Hyland said. "Education and transportation appear to be the most logical places to spend the money to get approval by voters."
"I think it's a good opportunity to diversify revenue," McKay said, "but I don't think that we should use it soley to increase revenue. I think a portion of it needs to be used to adjust the residential real estate tax rate. We know that 67 percent is too high."
Other news from breakfast:
- Construction on Mulligan Road is in progress, Hyland said. The road will be renamed Jeff Todd Way, after the Roy Rogers franchise owner who tragically died in 2011.
- McKay will attend the groundbreaking for the Kingstowne Wegmans, slated for Monday, April 2.
- The closing of Springfield Mall while it undergoes renovations will save the project two years, McKay said.
- West Potomac High School is over-enrolled by 300 students, according to Stock, while Hayfield High School and Mount Vernon High School are both under-enrolled. As a result, a boundary change is forthcoming for the Mount Vernon area, sometime within the next year, Storck said.