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Mount Vernon News Qs and As with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Dem Candidates


Over at the Mount Vernon News Facebook page, they are doing an excellent job asking Democratic candidates for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors a series of relevant/important questions. I thought the Qs and As deserved broader exposure, so I’m posting them here. Note that I am neutral in this race, although obviously that could change as I follow these campaign.

UPDATE 4/25: The latest, from April 20.

This week we asked the candidates for Supervisor if they would give up their full time jobs if they were elected. Candidates Jack Dobbyn (lawyer) and Tim Sargeant (Dominion Power) did not submit an answer. Below are the responses, however, of the other two candidates:

Candice Bennett: As your Supervisor, I will have the time, energy and resources to listen to your concerns and fight to improve the quality of life for all residents of the Mount Vernon district. While I intend to maintain my marketing research firm, Candice Bennett & Associates (CBA), my schedule is flexible and will allow me to manage the increasingly full-time duties of Supervisor. I also believe that by continuing to work at CBA, it will be easier for me to understand, firsthand, how county and state policies are directly impacting our residents and businesses. As a small business employer, I also feel an obligation to my employees whose livelihood comes from CBA.

Dan Storck: I am a co-owner and managing director of a healthcare company, where I manage the staff, payroll, and all financial and business operations. My partner understands that should the voters of Mount Vernon elect me as their Supervisor, I will hire an administrator to take over my day-to-day duties at the business so that I may be a full-time supervisor. Currently I work both at my business and as a school board member. I leave my home before 7am every morning and regularly am still responding to constituents until well after midnight. That is the same kind of work ethic our community can expect from me as Supervisor. As a School Board Member, I voluntarily hold regular office hours around the community. As Supervisor, I’ll be able to expand that tradition by holding daily office hours for community members to have direct access to me. I will hold hours at the Mount Vernon government center, and regularly in satellite locations in the South County area.

Anyway, here are the latest Qs and As, posted Sunday evening.

This week we asked the candidates for Mount Vernon Supervisor if they would support imposing a meals tax with the money being dedicated to education. As you will see, there are varied responses.

Jack Dobbyn: The question really should be: Would you support putting a voter referendum creating a meals tax on the ballot in November 2016? To which I answer yes. The Board does not currently have the authority to administratively impose a Meals Tax. In Virginia, only cities and towns have the authority to bypass a voter referendum. And, towns and cities in and around Fairfax County all have a meals tax. They have the authority to determine how to address their needs with the meals tax as a tool. We do not. I don’t believe people stay away from Alexandria, Arlington, Herndon, Vienna, Leesburg, or Washington, DC because those places have a meals tax. Giving all of the revenue to FCPS doesn’t address the fact that Fairfax County still has growing operational and programmatic needs each year. If FCPS received the revenue from a meals tax, the county’s needs would still exist, and we would still be left without revenue diversification to lessen the reliance on the Real Estate Tax. Thus, property taxes would continually rise to address the growing need for services throughout the county. If we were to put the additional money in the General Fund, we would be able to address a variety of needs as they arose each year, including lowering the tax rate. Some have proposed putting dollars toward the county’s debt service, which would, in turn, free up those dollars in the General Fund. Some have proposed splitting the meals tax revenue into different categories, including FCPS, public safety, and human services. The point is that individuals recognize that FCPS and the county both have needs, and that we need revenue diversification to ensure that our high quality of life maintains into the future. At the same time, we must address the tax burden for our property owners. Now, we must figure out how to get there together.

Candace Bennett: I strongly believe that Richmond has deferred its responsibility to fully fund education for too long and our local schools and governments have been paying the price. According to the Virginia Education Association, while Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state, we rank 39th in state per-pupil funding, pre-K-12 and teacher salaries rank 37th, with the average teacher salary almost $7,500 below the national average. And yet, our state ranks 13th in state corrections expenditures per offender, clearly not reflecting the true priorities of our state. Historically, Fairfax has only seen 40 cents returned for every dollar it sends to Richmond. The funding gap for our schools is made up at the county level with additional funds raised by students and parents on a school-by-school basis, which shortchanges everyonethe schools with less active fundraising efforts receive less money for these other programs and the students and parents who are active spend precious time on fundraising rather than learning. Because of the Dillon Rule, Fairfax County is extremely limited in its options to raise additional revenues for education or anything else. Our county executive has done a great job to try and manage county priorities which are reflected in the budget, and I sincerely appreciate Supervisor Hyland¹s leadership on the issue. However, I respectfully disagree that a meals tax is the solution to our educational budget shortfall. As an additional sales tax, it¹s a regressive tax on lower-income and middle-class families, who proportionately will pay more of their income toward this tax than others. I disagree that our restaurants would see a drop in business as a result as that hasn¹t happened in neighboring localities, but I simply don¹t think this burden should be borne only by diners and the restaurant industry. I believe a smart program would share the cost of generating additional revenue needed to make this effort a success. As such, as Supervisor, I would direct efforts on growing our business community for the long-term, where the costs for services are fairly and equitably shared and from which all in our county will benefit. Our county has been disproportionately hurt by sequestration and legislative squabbles on Capitol Hill. Attracting and growing businesses of all sizes and across industries is the best chance Fairfax has for increasing our revenue base in a sustainable manner.

Tim Sargeant: I support initiatives that can create opportunities for new sources of revenue, including a meals tax. The question is how to make sure these opportunities create the benefits we want and need for education and other priorities. For more information about a meals tax and other revenue opportunities, please visit my web site.

Dan Storck: Did Not Respond

Now, here are Qs and As posted April 5.

One of the most important issues facing our new Supervisor will be the North Hill development. The county is reviewing a proposal to construct 329 “affordable-workforce housing” apartments and 144 for sale townhomes on the site. We asked the four candidates for Supervisor for their opinion so you can make an educated vote on June 9. Next week we will ask them another question. Here are their responses on this issue:

Candice Bennett: “The North Hill Project represents an opportunity to increase options for affordable housing to the residents of Mount Vernon. This public-private partnership provides minimal risk, but maximum opportunities to our County. I have friends and family both here in Fairfax County and elsewhere in the country who struggle to make ends meet because housing costs stretch too much of an already tight budget. I welcome citizen feedback to any new project, especially when it may impact our schools and roads. I hope that projects like North Hill can move forward offering more permanent housing options to individuals, families and seniors who might otherwise find themselves priced out of Fairfax County.”

Jack Dobbyn: “I support the North Hill Development and it is a great step in the right direction in terms of addressing the dire need for affordable housing for our neighbors in the workforce. North Hill fills a need for housing for young teachers, public safety officers and other hard working citizens of Mount Vernon. Thank you to Supervisor Gerry Hyland and MV Housing Commissioner Matthew Bell for their leadership.”

Dan Storck: “One of my chief concerns as a candidate for the Board of Supervisors is that we develop and grow our community in such a way that the Mount Vernon District continues to be diverse and inclusive, while allowing for expansion and growth that leads to collective prosperity and enjoyment for all of our citizens. The County accepted proposal for the long discussed North Hill property, which was purchased with federal funds for affordable housing more than 30 years ago, appears to be an improvement over previous development plans. I understand that Supervisor Hyland anticipates that these development decisions will be completed during his term which ends in 2015. Should that not be possible, I look forward to working with the community and county officials to complete the mixed-use development of this important property.”

Tim Sargeant: Did Not Respond