The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors simply cannot and will not live within their means. Of course, their “means” means our taxes. This group of Democrats that never met a tax dollar it didn’t like has done it again. Our real estate taxes have just been raised an average of about 4.2%. Of course, next year, an election year for the entire Board of Supervisors and the School Board, there will be no tax increase. You heard it here first.
With all the new residential and business construction going on all over the County, one might expect that the additional taxes paid by these new homeowners and businesses would cover any needs the BOS might concoct. No way. So, where does all this money go? For starters, Fairfax County has an extremely generous supplemental pension program for public school personnel, (see Page 2 under “Progress on Pension Reform”). Then there is the insatiable School Board that consumes 53% of our real estate taxes. And, let us not forget all those bike lanes that no one uses. This financial wizardry comes from a Board of Supervisors that voted themselves a roughly 26% pay raise from $75K to $95K. Try that with YOUR boss.
The Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, preeminent data analyzers of County finances, has allowed us to post their article of the same title as above. Please read it for more details:
Real-estate taxes, including the storm-water tax, will increase 4.6% this year. The county and schools want to increase the employee salaries by 4.5%. Your income probably did not increase nearly that much. This continuing difference in wage increases is causing, little by little, the county and school workers to become an elite society. You can be sure that these workers will show their appreciation for the large raises by voting for the members of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board that gave them such generous raises. Their votes amount to 34% of the voter turnout during the local elections (e.g, the 2019 election). That is an enormous voting bloc.
The real-estate tax rate should be set in part by the ability of the citizens to pay the tax. The ability should be estimated on the basis of the median household income rather than the price of the taxpayer’s house. The county executive wants to raise the tax rate, even though the prices of houses have increased. Tax rate and assessment increases are being made in the face of a continuing decrease in median household income (Exhibit 1 on previous page); therefore, increasing the real-estate taxes adds considerably to the financial burden on County taxpayers.
Real-estate taxes increased considerably during the housing bubble from 2001 to 2007, almost doubling the tax on a typical property – less than double in Exhibit 1, because the values are in 2017 dollars; i.e., corrected for inflation. Real-estate taxes rose 8.3% per year during this time period. Household income rose only 1.0%. From 2013 to 2019, taxes rose 3.8% per year, but household income did not change – unless you were an employee of the county or school system. The rapid rise after 2013 is alarming, especially for middle-income families.
The rate of increase in real-estate taxes is not sustainable. The added burden is not on the wealthy, for whom real-estate taxes are a small part of their income. The added burden is not seen by low-income households, who are primarily renters, because they blame the increase on the landlord rather than the county. In addition, the county’s affordable-housing program and other public assistance programs help many of these low-income people. The burden is felt most severely by the middle-income households. IRS data show that the unsustainable tax increase causes many middle-income people to flee the county.
School teachers who have worked 30 years can retire at age 55, at which point they have a retirement nest-egg, the equivalent of 401k savings, of $2,000,000 – far more than all but a few private-sector workers will have.
Reasonable budget reductions would make the tax burden sustainable. We have identified and sent to the Board of Supervisors a list of possible savings, totaling $750M (16% of the combined school and county operating budgets). Most of the savings would be possible if the pension plans were made closer to those of the private sector. School teachers who have worked 30 years can retire at age 55, at which point they have a retirement nest-egg, the equivalent of 401k savings, of $2,000,000 – far more than all but a few private-sector workers will have.
For a more complete presentation and analysis of the county and school budgets for 2019, see http://www.fcta.org/Pubs/Reports/2018-03a-fac.html — then attend the budget hearings and make your voices heard. Especially call for (1) returning the public-school’s supplementary retirement program (ERFC) to the Legacy version, which stops payments when Social Security starts, and (2) raising the county and school retirement age to be the same as Social Security (67 instead of 55). Money saved by these means could be used to pay more to classroom teachers. The county should end its policy of giving other school-system and county employees approximately the same wage increases that are given to classroom teachers, as in effect the county and schools currently do.
Be sure to vote in the November 2019 (next year’s) election for the Board of Supervisors and School Board. They are the ones who raise your taxes and fail to hold down expenses. Your vote is important. In the past, the county and school workers and their spouses, a large voting bloc that favors their own large raises, have controlled the outcome of the local election.