In a time of tight budgets, rising taxes and service cutbacks, Fairfax County Board Chairman Gerry Connolly thinks he may have found a way of saving money: reduce the number of vehicles assigned to county agencies, according to an article in the Connection newspaper on April 29. Right now, the county maintains 3,537 vehicles for use by government agencies not counting the school system, according to the Department of Vehicle Services. That translates to about one vehicle for every three employees. Police cars, emergency vehicles and heavy vehicles such as tractors and earthmovers account for a large percentage of the fleet, Connolly said. But the county also maintains many passenger vehicles for employees to use when driving around the county, he added. Last week, as part of the budget adoption, Connolly asked that county auditors and employees study whether the county’s fleet can be made more economical. The cost of maintaining those vehicles has risen in recent years, largely due to fluctuations in the price of gas, said Jim Gorby, director of the Department of Vehicle Services. For the 2005 fiscal year, the board allocated almost $52 million to the department, which employs 256 full-time employees. That's a 27 percent increase in two years. At the same time, Gorby said, the county’s fleet keeps growing. The school system adds about 30 new school buses a year to keep up with new students. Homeland security grants to the county have also resulted in more first-responder vehicles. “As a consequence we are having to spend more money to maintain these vehicles,” Gorby said. Auditors started looking at the number of county vehicles in January. “We’re trying to get the right size for the fleet to determine whether there might be economies through sharing vehicles, perhaps using personal vehicles for county business,” said auditor John Adair, who presented an initial report to supervisors last week. “What we seem to have discovered is once you’ve got a vehicle from an agency point of view you never let go. It just gets in the system and it gets renewed.” The county has already started purchasing hybrid vehicles as a way to cut down on fuel costs.