Loudoun County’s budget and administration staff members are following up on an idea pitched by Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) during board’s strategic planning retreat last September: Figure out a way to get a better handle fiscal demands that come with Loudoun’s explosive growth.
The county already keeps track of the impact new construction has on the budget in terms of big county projects like new schools, roads, and fire stations. And in the long run, the county has a big-picture sense of how much that construction will force its operating budget to grow.
But where it falls short, Buona said, is measuring the impact of individual development projects on the nuts-and-bolts operating budget—such as getting an idea about how many extra calls for fire-rescue or Sheriff’s Office services that new development will create, or how many visits to the Department of Family Services the residents of those subdivision will made
“What I’m trying to get at is, when an item comes to the board, we really have no information on the operating side of the budget, and as a result I feel like we’re making decisions only looking at, OK, we have to build this road because of this development,” Buona said. “We aren’t looking at, well, does this add to our budget every year.”
The capital infrastructure part of the budget, such as new roads and schools, is mostly paid for with debt financing and paid off over years, but operating costs come directly out of county revenues from year to year.
The county is looking at a lot of ways to get out in front of that growth. Among them, the county plans to begin producing quarterly reports on approved and upcoming projects to help county leaders keep better track of the county’s growth. Buona had asked that supervisors get a comprehensive view of ongoing development, to avoid problems such as a surge of developments opening up at the same time in a small area, suddenly overburdening that area’s infrastructure.
County planners also are working to better coordinate with school staff to share information on residential and school population growth projections. They also plan to fold their fiscal impact analysis into the county’s ongoing comprehensive plan review, to provide the county with both the capital and operating budget impacts of different land use planning options in that process.