|The Board of Supervisors|
“Advertising a higher rate sets an upper threshold as budget decisions are considered,” said BoS Chair Sharon Bulova. “The board can adopt a tax rate that is lower but not higher than what is advertised.”
The board’s decision to advertise a higher rate does not mean that will be the rate approved when the BoS formally adopts a 2015 budget April 29, Bulova said, but “it is important that the board allows for flexibility in considering a tax rate so that debate and discussion is not cut off at the very beginning of the budget process.”
County Executive Ed Long had initially recommended that the tax rate for 2015 be maintained at the 2014 rate, at the request of the board. “However,” he advised the BoS, “given the topics that will likely be the focus of the discussion on the budget—employee pay and the transfer to [Fairfax County Public Schools—it may be prudent for the board to advertise a tax rate increase higher than the $1.085 rate to allow the flexibility to address issues beyond the county executive’s budget recommendations.”
According to the county executive’s proposed budget, one penny of the tax rate is equal to roughly $21.9 million in general fund revenue and $50 for the average Fairfax County residential tax bill.
Bulova noted that the board needs to take into account increased real estate assessments due to recovery in the housing market. The average homeowner will see a $331 increase in property taxes this year. Increasing the tax rate by two cents means homeowners would have to pay an additional $100.
The budget proposed by Long calls for a 1.29 percent increase in employee compensation, and Bulova said she would “work with my colleagues to identify funding to raise this to 2 percent.”
A critical issue for the BoS is how much county funding should be transferred to the school system. School board members and other school advocates were extremely disappointed when Long proposed increasing funds for FCPS by only 2 percent over the current-year amount. The school board had earlier approved a budget calling for a 5.7 percent increase—which it believes is necessary to keep up with rising enrollment and uncontrollable costs.
The increase in assessments is expected to generate $146 million in 2015, and school advocates are urging the BoS to provide half of those funds to FCPS—at the same rate the county budget is split among the county government and school system. Currently, 53 percent of the county budget is transferred to FCPS. The BoS, however, is considering only passing on 26 percent of the additional property tax revenue to the schools.
The BoS has scheduled public hearings on the budget on April 8, 9, and 10. Residents who want to speak at a hearing can sign up online.
The board has also scheduled a series of town hall meetings in each supervisory district. The Mason District meeting will be March 19, 7 p.m., at Annandale High School.