Stop Higher Taxes in Fairfax County!

Supervisor Pat Herrity | The Herrity Report

At the February 22nd Board meeting, the County Executive presented the FY 2023 Advertised Budget which includes a 9.5 percent increase in taxes paid by the average homeowner – with many across the County seeing increases much higher. If approved as is, it will be the most significant tax increase since 2006 when Gerry Connolly was Chairman during the period when real estate taxes on the average homeowner doubled from $2407.27 in 2000 to $4830.42 in 2008. This increase comes despite the advertised budget holding the tax rate flat at $1.14 per $100 of assessed value due to higher assessments.

For many years I have been saying that this Board’s spending is out of control and unsustainable for taxpayers as the Board, over my objection, approved new spending initiatives and used one-time funds and federal pandemic funds to pay for new positions while neglecting priorities like public safety and employee compensation. Residents cannot afford any kind of tax increase this year as we are facing record inflation, rising gas prices and an economy recovering from the pandemic. This is on top of tax increases of 45 percent over the last 10 years. The Board clearly has a spending problem. 

Instead of just voting against the budget, I produced an alternative budget to show how it could be done. Last year my alternative budget and budget guidance provided a path to reduce the cost of government with a true flat tax for the average homeowner while also addressing employee compensation, senior tax relief a year earlier, teacher raises, and addressed public safety compensation needs. It was rejected by a vote of 9-1. I am convening a Citizens Budget Committee again this year to continue the work to identify how we can reduce the cost of government for our residents while still providing the quality services residents expect and hope I can once again produce a flat tax alternative budget that addresses County priorities and recognizes the fiscal strains on and constraints of our taxpayers.

In a small bit of good news, in the FY 2023 Advertised Budget, the County Executive has included $80M that is up for Board consideration. I expect that even this Board will see the tremendous impact of assessments and forgo that $80M in additional spending in order to reduce the tax rate by about 2.5 cents to drop the average increase to about 7 percent. However, that is hardly a dent for the average taxpayer whose bill went up by over $685 under the advertised budget and 45 percent over the last 10 years – significantly more needs to be done. 

There are many factors that have contributed to the budget challenges this year, specifically that this Board has:

  • Continuously used one-time funds for recurring expenses, which goes against longstanding Board policy. 
  • Committed stimulus funds for recurring needs. As of January, the County and FCPS have received or are expected to receive $1.03 billion in federal stimulus funds.
  • Not kept a running list of accumulating expenses presented at all Board and committee meetings, which was my recommendation for budget guidance last year to remind the Board of its spending commitments outside the budget process.
  • Ignored employee compensation for the last several years resulting in longstanding resource issues for critical public services.
  • Committed to new programs and initiatives outside the budget process, addressing “wants” without addressing critical “needs.”
  • Not held back spending even as our commercial tax base diminished with the impacts of the pandemic. A larger commercial tax base alleviates some of the tax burden on residents. 

In addition to real estate assessment increases, it’s likely you will also see an increase in your personal property tax. The average personal property tax bill will increase by $181 due to supply chain impacts that have resulted in significantly increased valuations for used cars. The revenue generated by this increase will be $83M beyond what is included in the County Executive’s advertised budget. I plan to look at options to forgo this tax increase as well especially considering this additional revenue is not yet appropriated.

Between now and May 10th when the Board formally adopts its budget, I strongly encourage you to share your feedback on how taxes and County spending are affecting you. 

Here are a few ways you can be heard:

  • Call Chairman McKay’s office (he is also Chairman of the Board’s Budget Committee) and the other Board members and/or email the entire Board at ClerkToTheBOS@FairfaxCounty.govI am only one vote on the Board and while I would like to see us look at significantly cutting the tax rate, that will not happen without my colleagues hearing from you. You can find the contact information for the other Board offices here.
  • Sign up to testify at the Budget Public Hearings April 12-14th. You can provide testimony via phone, pre-recorded video, or in person. You can also send written testimony to the entire Board through the Clerk’s office.
  • Attend my annual Budget Townhall on Wednesday, March 30th at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the West Springfield Government Center with County Executive Bryan Hill and Phil Hagen from the Department of Management and Budget. I invite you to come share your concerns and questions with me then. 

If you wish to appeal your assessment, you can find more information as well as the application here. Administrative appeal applications must be postmarked by April 1, 2022, filed online or emailed to DTAREDAppeals@FairfaxCounty.gov by 4:30 p.m. of April 1, 2022. Please reach out to DTA or my office if you need assistance with the process.

I will be sharing more updates on the budget in the coming weeks, and I look forward to hearing from you. 

Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) serves on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Follow him on Twitter: @PatHerrity.

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