Fairfax Co. board approves largest tax hike since 2007

(WUSA9) -- Tuesday, Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity expressed disappointment over the board's decision to approve the largest tax hike since 2007.

According to Herrity, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a tax hike of over 7% at its meeting. Supervisors voted 7-3 to increase the tax rate to $1.09 for Fiscal Year 2015. Herrity, Linda Smyth, and John Cook voted against the rate.

According to a press release from Herrity, "a tax rate of $1.09 represents an over 14% tax increase in last three years, and including the stormwater tax is a 7.25% increase this year alone. Fees also rose, and the Board discussed implementing a meals tax."

Herrity provided this statement after the vote on Tuesday::

I am disappointed in the Board's decision to opt for a tax rate increase over tough cost reductions and a focus on priorities. This sends the wrong message to taxpayers in the year of the $30M bank bailout and reduced tax rates in surrounding jurisdictions. There is something fundamentally wrong when Arlington County can cut a whole penny off of their tax rate but Fairfax County cannot.

More so than any other time that I have been on the Board, we are seeing a true lack of priorities in the county's spending. Over the last two years the Board has decided to spend $30m on a stormwater bond over our staff's objections, spend precious transportation dollars on a streetcar project where there are more effective options, bail out a bank for Lorton Arts for $30m, and we continue to sink our developer contributions into rent control housing instead of public safety, schools, and parks. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way the county does business, and we need to refocus on our priorities.

To add insult to injury, the Board also discussed today beginning the process of implementing a meals tax.

Chairman Sharon Bulova has created a special task force to explore putting a meals tax to referendum in the county. "All of the cities and towns around and within Fairfax County have adopted a meals tax," said Bulova. "Throughout the past few years, there has also been growing sentiment from constituents and organizations for our Board to allow voters to decide whether they wish to avail themselves of this additional source of revenue."

Bulova released the following statement about the budget in general: "Our nation, region, and County continue to struggle during these sluggish post-recession years. The good news this year is that real estate values are beginning to rebound. The bad news is that only residential values are rising; business taxes are flat and commercial assessments are a decrease from Fiscal Year 2014."

Bulova admitted that it's not "great news" but said that there were some factors that had to be considered such as an increase in public school student population and needs for human services.

According to Bulova, here are the "highlights of the mark-up"::

  • Increase in the tax rate from $1.085 to $1.090, a relatively modest ½ cent. The increase represents a $25 annual increase in the average residential taxpayer's bill. This would be on top of a $330 average increase resulting from rising assessment values.
  • This additional tax revenue ($10.9 million) combined with $6 million in savings achieved on the General County side of the budget is used to increase the School Transfer by $17 million, from 2% in the Advertised Budget to 3%. With this added percent the total increase in the School Transfer will be $51 million. An expected increase in State funding of approximately $30 million will help to fund additional School requirements.
  • An additional $10.5 million in savings/reductions are taken from the General County side of the Advertised Budget and reallocated to increase compensation for employees. In this package the advertised Market Rate Adjustment of 1.29% is combined with an additional 1%.
  • Step increases for Public Safety employees will resume for those who are eligible.
  • This package is not balanced by drawing down one-time reserves, thus avoiding the creation of a structural imbalance that would make it more difficult to meet our fiscal needs in future years.

Formal adoption of the budget is scheduled for April 29. You can find more information on the 2015 budget at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dmb.


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