Divided Prince William Board Advertises FY22 Tax Rate of $1.125

| March 8, 2021 | 0 Comments | News

Prince William Board of Supervisors.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors have advertised a proposed Fiscal Year 2022 residential tax rate of $1.125 for every $100 of assessment home and property value.

Although the rate is unchanged from this year, due to an increase in home values, its adoption it would mean an average increased tax bill of $328 (including fire & levy) for county homeowners.

The “advertised” tax rate, means that the county will officially communicate the tax rate being considered. After it is advertised, the tax rate cannot be increased, but it can be decreased. The county has until April to adopt their official FY22 tax rate.

The advertised tax rate of $1.125 tax rate was approved 5-3. Democratic Supervisors Victor Angry (D-Neabsco), Kenny Boddye (D-Occoquan), Margaret Franklin (D-Woodbridge), Andrea Bailey (D-Potomac) and Chair At-Large Ann Wheeler (D) voted “aye.”

Republican Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville), Peter Candland  (Gainesville) and Lesli Vega (Coles) voted “nay.”

What’s in the Budget

One key aspect of the budget is that it would provide county staff with a 3% merit salary increase, including police and fire and rescue workers.

The budget provides $659 million towards Prince William County Schools, $34.6 million above FY21, thus providing the county’s largest one-year investment in K-12 education. The funding would allow PWCS to provide employee step and 2% COLA increases.

$96K to add digital hotspots at county libraries to help towards equity and especially important during COVID-19.

For police, the budget provides $1.3 million in expansion of police staffing including school resource officers at new schools, and two positions at the Animal Shelter. It allocates $178,000 to examine Prince William Policing through an equity lens and the hiring of Prince William County’s first Equity and Inclusion Officer. It allocates $135,000 to secure $350,000 in state funding for a Child Advocacy Center to service and reduce trauma for children who have suffered abuse. It is also expected to aid in prosecution of offenders.

Nearly $1 million is allocated to increase efficiency in courts and increase capacity., and $1.2 million would establish a Homeless Navigation Center and continue current services to the homeless.

Reactions to the Budget

During budget discussions, Wednesday, the three Republicans on the board described the tax rate as illogical and harmful. They called it an historically increase taxes during a year of tremendous economic uncertainty.

“(Is anyone) willing to come down on the real estate taxes at all?” asked Supervisor Lawson. “We’ve got historic economic times where we got a federal moratorium on evictions; we got a new state rental assistance program; and we got federal assistance with mortgages. We’ve got 200% increase in applications for public benefits, and I think this is a horrible time to pass an historic tax hike on homeowners.”

Supervisor Candland, who called the budget “tone deaf,” noted the proposed budget would provide $69 million in new spending over FY21, including the other tax being approved at such as the ‘tech tax.” He does not think that lowering the tax rate would leave the county with any kind of shortfall.

Vega called it “mind boggling” and “ludicrous” to increase the tax burden on homeowners during a pandemic, especially if they choose to protect “big tech.”

Candland said even if they got the tax increase for the data centers do not expect real estate taxes to decrease. “Because I’ve tried this- computer and peripherals, never get enough support…Chamber comes in and says, ‘well, everything is going to fall apart’.”

Additionally, staff explained that the proposed budget assumes the $.25 maximum tax increase for data centers and others who pay the computer and peripherals taxg. It is not as though that tax would off-set slashing the residential tax rate.

Vega offered a substitute motion to approve an advertised tax rate of 1.052. She noted it would still provide $8.9 million above FY21 revenues. That motion failed 5-3 with only Vega, Lawson and Candland supporting it.

Democratic supervisors looked at the budget more it in terms of a need for greater revenue to help residents and programs during the pandemic.

Supervisor Franklin felt funding is more needed during COVID-19 for the variety of programs they are offering such as homeless assistance and business grants. She supported merit raises to county employees and teachers, saying they especially deserved it at a time when they are being sent back into the classroom.

She and other supervisors noted most employees those “seen” and “unseen” make a modest living and the county needs to keep salaries competitive or face attrition.

She noted they had to use librarians to fill call centers. And although there was $13 million in left over funds this year, it is because they cut back on hiring. But Lawson said that is typical every year.

Supervisor Boddye said they were going about the budget backwards. He did not want to restrain them to lesser revenue at this point in the budget process. Instead, he said that could be done once they had more information on where cuts could be made. He said no one should be calling for cuts without telling them where they would come from.

But Candland wanted spending limits set up front. He said the school board looks towards the advertised tax rate to set their budget. And Lawson said advertising the budget at this level cause community concern, even fear.

Chair Wheeler accused certain supervisors whom she did not name of cultivating fear by emailing their constituents. Lawson said she would not be “silenced.” And she has the right to inform her constituents, especially on the information they are interested in.

Boddye said they all want to inform their constituents, but he thinks the message should not only consider the price tag of the budget but that which the budget would fund.

As the tax rate is now advertised, people can contain their supervisors and weigh in during the budget process.

© 2021, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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