First in a Series on the Fairfax County Park Bond
By Tony Vellucci
There are brands and sayings that are known the world over, regardless of language or culture – like Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz, and of course – The Name is Bond. James Bond! Well, this lead article is not about any international mystery or spy-story. Rather, it’s about a different bond – the Park Bond.
Recently, Fairfax voters approved a $182 million public safety bond question on the Nov. 6, 2018 general election ballot. Bond funds will be used to build, renovate or expand four fire stations, three police facilities, and courtrooms.
Many of the county’s agencies (Public Works, Libraries, Parks) use funds raised from bonds outside of taxes for building, renovating or expanding county facilities to support constituent services. The question often arises: why not just raise taxes and pay as you go. Well, there’s lots of reasons why the county issues bonds, and the county website provides copious information on the process and the who, what, where, when and why.
Suffice it to say, if you are going to build an addition to your house, you probably don’t have the funds on hand to pay for it outright; so, you get a loan. The county is doing essentially the same thing, but is asking you the voter, if you agree, before going out and saddling you with the resulting debt. That’s why we have bond referendums in November.
This article, and those that follow, will focus on bonds issued by the county to support the Fairfax County Park Authority. Park Authority bonds usually come before voters every four years and if the past is any guide, we can expect the next one in November 2020.
Over the course of the next few months, we will look at the who what where when and why of how the Park Authority does bonds.
We’ll look at the Park Authority Board and the Bond Committee processes, policies and procedures; how the staff develops bond project recommendations and how the proposed bond package is fed to the board.
We’ll look at bond interaction with the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and how the proposed bond package lines up with the Park Authority Needs Assessment. Is the Park Authority identifying bond projects that fit and dovetail with the Needs Assessment?
We’ll look at how a new community grass roots effort – the Community Vision Plan – can play a role in identifying bond projects along with Park Authority-developed park master plans.
We’ll also look at past bond packages and do a quick hindsight-assessment on them.
The reason for all this is to ensure that you, the citizen, have input to the bond package so that it satisfies your needs, and so that you cast an informed vote. After all, the bottom line is that this is not fake money. It’s our money and since bonds are usually issued for 30 years. it’s a long-term liability that we the voters agree to take on.
The next article will discuss the Park Authority Board, the bond committee and the timeline for how a bond gets from the drawing board to the November ballot.
Tony Vellucci is a former Fairfax County Park Authority Board member, Braddock District (2011-2017).