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Property Tax Dominates Budget Meeting

Residents voiced their displeasure with next year’s property tax.

Ron Weber, a resident of Reston for 28 years, is angry. Like most Restonians, he’s facing another hefty increase in his county residential real estate tax. Residents of Reston are set to pay the county on average 13 percent more than last year.

Last Wednesday night, Weber, 67 and retired, called the increase “irresponsible” at a budget information meeting hosted by Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne.

“Do I have to move out of this county, where I raised three children, because I can’t afford these [real estate] taxes?” said Weber, condemning next year’s hike.

After Hudgins and other county officials provided a thorough and lengthy overview of the budget, residents were allotted half an hour to voice concerns, which focused almost exclusively on the real estate tax increase.

While the budget actually includes a reduction in the property tax rate of 10 cents per $100 assessed, the county’s average tax per household will go up next year by nearly $500 from $4,083 to $4,581.

In Reston the average increase will be $439 from $3,293 to $3,732, which, even with the tax rate reduction, works out to be a 13 percent increase from last year. Residents in Reston whose home values have surpassed the average can expect to fork over even more.

“I think this budget has to be cut,” Weber said. “I have two cars, one with 200 thousand miles and one with 75 thousand miles. Do I have to sell my assets to pay my taxes?” said Weber.

“This certainly highlights how people feel about the increase,” Hudgins said after the meeting. “It’s a difficult balancing act and we have to be cognizant of these concerns to offset the difficulties of the homeowners. And that’s why, in part, we had the [tax] rate cut.”

AT THE MEETING Hudgins said the county is “a community of high expectations” and that she and the other supervisors have the difficult duty of trying to uphold the high quality-of-life standards made possible by local governmental services and allay the tax burden.

In an unscheduled appearance, Supervisor Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) arrived toward the end of the meeting to address citizens’ concerns.

“We are very conscious of what you are saying,” said Connolly, who also explained that new revenue has gone toward three very important purposes: schools, public safety and new facilities.

He added that the 10 cent tax rate reduction is one of the largest in Fairfax County history by any measure. Moreover, Connolly said that Fairfax County has been able to maintain and, in many cases, improve vital government services compared to other counties.

But resident concerns were not easily diminished, especially since this is the fifth consecutive year of double-digit increases. Since 2000 the county’s average real estate tax per household has increased by more than $1,600, an average of $335 per year.

“What is conspicuously absent in your presentation is how an average income household can afford these taxes,” said Steve Hull of Reston. Hull went on to argue that such large consecutive increases in the property tax might not be prudent or sustainable.

ANOTHER ISSUE BRIEFLY discussed at the meeting was affordable housing. One resident showed up with the sole purpose of drawing attention to affordable housing and requested an increase in the affordable housing trust fund.