Services or No Tax Hike?

Services or No Tax Hike?

Senators and delegates representing Loudoun hold a town meeting to hear residents’ concerns.

Paeonian Springs resident Linda Porter hopes that the state legislators representing Loudoun are as ashamed as she is.

Porter told the Republican legislators that she is “embarrassed and humiliated” by how the Republican majority on the new Board of Supervisors behaved at its first meeting last Monday. The six supervisors added 22 items to the agenda without prior public notice and reversed several growth management decisions made by the previous board.

“They used secrecy and parliamentary trickery to put forward their agenda,” said Porter, who is a Republican. “They made mockery of the public process. The irony of all of this is they are a majority. They didn’t need to do that. I ask you to review their behavior.”

Porter was one of more than 100 Loudoun residents to attend the Loudoun town meeting on Thursday. Senators William “Bill” Mims (R-33) and Russell Potts (R-27) and Delegates Richard “Dick” Black (R-32), Robert “Bob” Marshall (R-13), Joe May (R-33) and Thomas “Tom” Rust (R-86) hosted the meeting.

“This is perhaps the best turnout we’ve had,” Black said. “I know we’ll do what we can from Richmond to help.”

AS THEY HAVE in past years, the legislators held the meeting before they convened the 2004 General Assembly on Jan. 14 with adjournment scheduled on March 13.

About 60 residents spoke during the three-hour meeting. In the public hearing session, several residents told the legislators why they agreed or disagreed with the actions of the new Board of Supervisors. One of the speakers mentioned being “appalled” at those actions, adding that residents will have to shoulder more of the costs of growth through paying higher taxes or expecting lower quality public services.

Other speakers said that the board’s actions did not reflect the desires of most voters. As Waterford resident Ed Lehmann said, most of Loudoun voters are “centrist” and support growth control. “Rapid growth is not good for the county or for anybody,” he said. “Impact fees hopefully will help slow growth.”

A few residents pushed for legislative support of impact fees to help localities cover infrastructure costs brought about by new residential development and of an adequate facilities ordinance to require the infrastructure to be in place before development can occur. Lehmann and others let the legislators know they disagreed with the Board of Supervisor’s decision last week to oppose any legislation regarding impact fees and an adequate public facilities ordinance, reversing the support of previous boards.

The board’s lack of support allows for out-of-control development, said Middleburg resident Valerie Kelly, adding that she will not pay the additional costs of growth when she does not have a voice. “I have a vote. I deserve a voice,” she said.

Kelly showed the legislators a cardboard flag combining the flags of Afghanistan, Cuba, East Germany and North Korea. “Totalitarianism always starts by closing off debate,” she said. “Mr. Mims, Mr. May and Mr. Marshall, the majority of Loudoun County voted for smart growth. There’s so much insult they can stand. … State Republicans, will you allow this to be the new Loudoun Creed? ‘Stick taxpayers with the costs of development, plus overdeveloped schools and laugh about it.’”

Other residents disagreed. The board’s actions were taken with “dignity,” said Dale Pollen Myers, who served as chairman of the Board of Supervisors from 1996-99 when current chairman Scott York served as the Sterling District representative. “They did what they had to do. They did what they were elected to do,” she said.

A FEW RESIDENTS addressed Warner’s proposed sales tax initiative to raise $1 billion in revenue during the next two years, possibly through an increase to the taxes on cigarettes and gasoline and by adding one cent to the sales tax.

“Please go in there and take a look at the budget. We don’t need a tax hike. What we need is to be wise with the budget,” said James Parmelee of Centreville.

Other residents encouraged the legislators to provide more support for human services and asked for an increase in the number of waivers the state issues for those with mental disabilities. Carol Estes of Leesburg pointed out that the state has 160 waiver slots for fiscal year 2006 and that those with mental disabilities have an up to a 10-year wait to get into assisted housing. “I am concerned about my son’s future when I can no longer provide a supervised living situation,” said Estes, whose son is 39 years old. “Please consider the impact it has on these individuals.”

Leesburg resident Kim Hudson’s son “Casey and other people with mental disabilities need your attention and services. They need strong attention in the budget,” she said. “These people are probably your most neediest, innocent citizens you represent.”