In the 1980s and 1990s, the MCA advocated for Supervisors to create an Auditor to the Board of Supervisors position. Two plus decades later, the MCA put pressure on the School Board to create an independent program auditor position. We worked with our Dranesville Supervisor and with other county groups, to raise community awareness of the problem. Ultimately, the School Board created an Auditor General position.
A second Education & Youth Committee project was to reduce class size disparities within FCPS, because McLean class sizes were among the largest in FCPS. This effort had some but limited success. When FCPS refused to disclose class sizes at individual middle and high schools, however, a bipartisan group of delegates persuaded the General Assembly to enact a new law requiring all school districts to disclose some information about middle and high school class sizes at each school. That data, as well as elementary school class size data, is available on the FCPS web site.
I now chair the Budget & Taxation Committee, which is lucky to have an unusually collaborative group of people with great analytical skills. Topics also align with my interests. I enjoy talking with actuaries and reading their reports, which is helpful in understanding how to make our local public pension plans more financially sustainable. Paying for MCC classes and other programs has given me a resident’s perspective on the McLean Community Center budgets. Gardening has taught me the importance of raising Park Authority funding enough to maintain our county parks.
During my years as a vice-chair and chair of the Budget & Taxation Committee, I’m most proud of two efforts.
The first is our work on pension plans. In 2017 and 2018, the School Board and Supervisors adopted benefit changes to make the plans more sustainable in the long-term. In addition, pension plan trustees began to move towards more realistic assumptions in projecting future pension costs. This year, we also began to take a closer look at how our pension plans invested their assets, after McLean residents expressed concerns about crypto-related investments and organized a well-attended and informative public meeting with County pension officials. We have a strong team of volunteers who continue to look at pension issues and look forward to meeting with the County’s pension plan executive director this fall.
Public safety projects probably are our top priority now, given rising property crime rates in our neighborhoods, which dovetailed with rising police vacancy rates in the McLean District Station. In 2022 and 2023, MCA resolutions called on the Supervisors to take steps to reduce police vacancy rates. We spelled out the exact salaries earned by police who worked for competing public safety employers. We testified - along with residents from all over the county - about the need to fill police vacancies. The Supervisors voted to pay $15,000 signing bonuses to police officers, then to give police officers a larger than proposed raise in Fiscal Year 2024. Our Budget & Taxation Committee members continue to monitor this situation, and we are now looking more broadly at County policies that adversely affect police officer morale, which in turn reduces police effectiveness.