Fairfax Co. Grapples With Budget Crisis, Student Safety

Higher taxes, cuts in services could be on the way

A $650 million budget gap has Fairfax County facing some tough choices -- especially when it comes to safety.

County Executive Anthony Griffin has made his budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year. It includes a plan to eliminate 524 jobs in county government.

The property tax rate could go up by 12 cents. However, most homeowners wouldn't see much of a difference. Assessments have fallen so sharply that the average homeowner would just pay $14 more next year.

School funding would be flat, meaning bigger class sizes. The budget crunch could also mean fewer police in the classroom.

"Programs such as our crime prevention officers, programs such as our school education officers, programs such as our school resource officers are all facing reductions or elimination," said Dave Rohrer, the Fairfax County Police Chief.

More than 100 police positions could go.

However, County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said the cuts would not put public safety at risk.

"I would not recommend, and I would not support reductions that jeopardize our response time, that prevent the police, fire and rescue from being able to respond in a timely and effective way to emergency situations," she said.

There will be public hearings on the proposed budget on March 30, March 31 and April 1. The final budget approval should happen in late April.

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