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Fairfax Board Auditor to Look at FY2014 Park Reductions

Park officials worry that more reductions could close facilities.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has had to tighten the belt on funds since FY 2009, and FY 2014 could likely be no different.

The county’s budgetary outlook for the next few years is grim, prompting County Executive Ed Long’s request for agencies to identify potential cuts that would reduce their FY 2014 General Fund needs by 5 percent.

Per the request of park officials, the Board unanimously approved Tuesday an audit of the Authority’s general fund services in order to find cuts that won’t dramatically affect the operation and maintenance of the county’s 420 public parks.

But according to a letter from the Park Authority, that won’t be easy. As it stands, 82 percent of the Authority’s General Fund appropriation covers personnel, an area in which they are already struggling, officials say.

“Further General Fund reductions will severely impact our personnel levels and equate to facility closings,” said William Bouie, Chairman of the Park Authority Board, in his letter to supervisors.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) supported the motion for an audit review, but didn’t want it to become a regular occurrence.

“This causes me a little bit of concern because I don’t know if we want to set precedent of every agency that’s coming under fiscal pressure going to the audit committee for reductions,” he said.

He also noted that the Authority’s revenue fund – comprised of fee dollars as opposed to tax dollars – had increased since 2008, and said a thorough review of those fund allocations should be conducted as well.

In his letter, Bouie said that in recent years, the Park Authority has shifted from a dependency on tax dollars to a dependency on fees, with 42 percent in tax support and 58 percent in fee support.

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins stressed the importance of those figures.

 “We have reduced general fund support and they have balanced that challenge of their mission by increasing fees,” she said. “When we give this review back, I hope that we’ll look at the mission as well as the financials.”

Vicki September 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
It never ceases to amaze me that County Leadership doesn't connect the continued buying of more Park land and facilities to the increased need for ongoing administrative and maintenance costs to operate the already existing and new facilities. You can't expect to expand the availability of facilities without increasing the number of personnel needed to operate them, the costs of mowing and other grounds maintenance for fields, etc. and the maintenance costs for buildings, as well as the costs to hire people to run the programs that operate in those buildings. We need to either choose to fund the facilities and programs out of already collected tax dollars, or cut back (or even eliminate) buying and developing additional facilities, at least until the economical recovery is completed. This needs to not only be applied to the Park Authority, but other County programs and facilities in general.
Kim Huong September 28, 2012 at 02:58 PM
The elephant in the park, so to speak, is the free use of FCPA athletic fields. FCPA should not be trying to raise the county's $5.50 per athlete per season tax... they will only see a tiny fraction of that. Instead, FCPA should directly bill organizations based on their use permits, with different fees depending on the field (softball, football, synthetic turf, grass, lighted, etc.), AND, with credits for those user groups who already put money into maintaining and upgrading the FCPA fields.
Marshal Larkey September 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Kim, this already happens when organizations 'rent' the use of fields and obtain a permit from 8am to 11pm. What happens to the fees collected is another story. Similar to the $100 Athletic Fee per student, per sport at the high schoo level! The money is buried and distributed into other programs. Amazing how we climbed above Arlington County and became the richest county, yet cannot provide the park maintenance required for a baseball or football game! Our fields are not maintained, Prince William and Arlington counties do not seem to have this problem.

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