Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) says legislation resulting from the Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review’s initial report contains many provisions that would benefit Fairfax County. Herrity served as chair of the statewide task force which was charged with identifying and making recommendations on state mandates to localities with the aim of reducing financial and administrative burdens on local governments.
“The Task Force recommended the elimination or modification of over 60 mandates,” Herrity said. “These recommendations are common sense, will provide fiscal relief to localities and the Commonwealth, and will enable both to more efficiently serve Virginia’s residents.”
These recommendations ranged from those with significant financial impact like eliminating the requirement that localities must offer online SOL testing in middle schools. In Fairfax County alone this program costs over $4 million to set up, then an additional $4 million plus per year to run, Herrity said. “While online testing is a worthwhile objective an additional $4 million a year would enable FCPS to hire nearly 60 new teachers,” he said.
Other changes would increase efficiency. For example, allowing jails that are accredited by the American Correctional Association, which have identical standards as the Department of Corrections, would no longer have to be inspected by the Department of Corrections, assuming the accreditation is maintained. This prevents duplicative inspections and will ease the work burden of both local jails and the Department of Corrections.
Herrity said the recommendations have taken on greater importance as the cumulative budget gaps in local governments likely exceed the budget gap experienced by the Commonwealth. The vast majority of localities are projecting revenue growth less than the Commonwealth’s projected growth of 3.1%. After several very tough budget years, localities are in need of relief from state mandates and are not in a position to accept new ones. These recommendations should also result in reduced burden and fiscal relief for state agencies and the Commonwealth, he said.
“I am very happy that we have a Governor who understands the strains on local governments and has the desire to see those strains eased,” Herrity said. “It is refreshing to have leadership at the state level that understands the strains that these mandates have on local governments and are also willing to do something about it.”
Some the recommendations listed by Herrity include:
- Eliminating the requirement that localities must offer online SOL testing in middle schools. In Fairfax County alone this program costs over $4 million to set up, then an additional $4 million plus a year to run. While online testing is a worthwhile objective an additional $4 million per year would enable FCPS to hire nearly 60 new teachers.
- Eliminating the “Kings Dominion” rule and let local jurisdictions decide when the school year starts. The start time for schools should be tailored to each unique jurisdiction and its education needs.
- Eliminating the requirement that all secondary road projects must be approved by VDOT Central Office in Richmond even after they have been approved by regional VDOT offices. This is a clear case of duplicative efforts because regional offices follow the same guidelines as central office. This will cut back on significant staff hours at the state level and will allow for quicker approval times for secondary road projects saving local dollars.
- Modifying the requirement that localities have to buy space in newspapers to advertise requests for proposals for government contracts and instead can advertise them online and in public spaces. This would allow localities to save money and utilize technology that is much more efficient.
- Eliminate the requirement that all bus shelters constructed on VDOT roadways go through the Department of General Services permitting process; resulting in administrative burden and lost ad revenues. Bus shelters are already constructed to Uniform Building Code criteria and the need to go through DGS was not apparent.
- Recommended reducing the number of reports that every school system must submit to the state by 15%. This would eliminate a significant amount of staff hours and would allow localities to focus resources into the classroom.