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PW Supervisors Clash over Advertised Tax Rate

| March 5, 2016 | 0 Comments | News

houseofmoneyStill unable to reach a consensus on the advertised tax rate, Friday evening, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors defaulted to advertise the “administrative” property tax rate at 1.145 percent or a 3.88 percent increase of FY16 as per the county’s five-year plan.

If enacted, that would amount to an average increase of $145 annually from FY16. However, with four on the board pushing for a flat tax rate or even lower rate, it is unlikely the 3.88 percent will become the final number in April.

Virginia jurisdictions are required to advertise the tax rate by March 5. However, it is not a final tax rate, but a tax ceiling. Property taxes can always be decreased, but they cannot be increased after the tax rate is advertised.

Board Chairman Corey Stewart (R) told citizens not to interpret the advertised tax rate as an indication that the board is in favor of that number.

While the special meeting was held to allow the board reach consensus, members only achieved gridlock.

Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland (R) did most of the talking, advocating for last year’s tax rate or lower. In a 30-minute speech, Candland made his case for a tax rate of 1.115 percent.

He said he wanted to clear up any confusion. Although it would be a decrease over last year’s rate, it would mean more revenue for the county. It would bring in 6.3 million above this year, a number that he sometimes rounded to $7 million. If the board decided to advertise a flat tax of 1.122 percent, it would bring in an additional $10 million for the county.

Candland said he supports a flat tax because seniors incomes are not keep up with rising taxes, and property taxes this year will have more of an effect on mid to low properties than properties worth half a million or more.

Also advocating for a flat tax of 1.122 or less were Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville), Ruth Anderson (Occcoquan) and Chairman Corey Stewart. Others on the board wanted to advertise according to the five-year plan.

Potomac Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (R) said they created a five-year plan that she would like to stick to because it provides reliable guidance to the schools and county departments.

Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi (D), was opposed to a flat tax. He said they should take time to talk to the citizens to get their input before lowering the tax rate. Meanwhile, supervisors could look for savings in the budget.

However, Candland said that was a “trick” because after the tax rate was advertised, Principi would surely advocate against a decrease. Moreover, Candland feared a high advertised rate could create false expectation for spending in the community.

Lawson (R) was ready to look for savings in the budget, but the opposition was not interested in slashing the budget until after the tax rate was advertised.

Ultimately, three votes were taken, but all ended in a stalemate. Candland, Lawson, Anderson and Stewart supported a 1.115 percent rate, then a 1.122 percent rate. Principi, Jenkins, Caddigan and Nohe only supported the 1.145 rate. No one seemed willing to budge, and no compromises were proposed.

The moderate to liberal coalition seemed perturbed by the tone of the meeting. Early in the meeting, Marti Nohe (R-Coles) made a motion to adjourn, but it was waved away by the Chairman. Caddigan questioned the reason Candland was doing all the talking, saying, “I’d like to hear from the Chairman.” Stewart said he supported the flat tax, but offered no further explanation.

Caddigan pointed out Stewart’s tune had changed from last year when he supported the five-year plan, but Candland noted this was a very different board. Caddigan also chided Stewart for interrupting her mid-statement.

Realizing they were not making any progress, Stewart suggested they advertise the rate as a matter of an administrative function, as they often do in Fairfax and Loundon counties. This would mean advertising the 1.145 percent rate despite the failed vote. Stewart warned residents should not read too much into that rate.

The audience consisted largely of citizens advocating to fund the five-year plan in its entirety. A big segment of those in the chambers were Prince William Education Associate members. The president of the Prince William Federation of Teachers also attended.

Prince William County Schools released a statement that the school division stands to lose $13 million in funding from what they were expecting if the county approves the flat tax rate.

At a previous meeting, Acting County Executive Christopher Martino provided the supervisors with a list of unmet needs. Of the unmet needs, Principi said education, safety, fire & rescue and mental health services were his priorities.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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