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Non-Reston Residents Want Out

At a second public hearing, non-Reston residents clamor to get out of the tax district.

Gene Warshaw, a Vienna resident, doesn’t understand why he pays taxes to support the Reston Community Center.

“It’s unfair and it should be rectified,” Warshaw told the RCC Board of Governors Wednesday, Feb. 15 at a public hearing, which attracted a crowd of more than 100 people and included 39 speakers.

James Tinsley, another Vienna resident who pays taxes to support RCC, said he doesn’t use RCC facilities.

“In fact, I don’t even know where they are. I got lost coming here tonight,” said Tinsley. He told the board he wants out of the tax district.

Daniel Horton, another Vienna resident who wants out of the tax district, said he pays more than $500 a year in taxes to the RCC. But the RCC never notified him that he was paying the tax. “I first became aware of the tax district in a door-to-door campaign,” he said.

WHEN THE RCC was formed in 1979, a small tax district was created to fund it. The tax district, called Small Tax District #5, encompasses most of Reston and some neighborhoods outside of Reston, including homes with Vienna, Herndon and Oakton addresses. Residents of the tax district currently pay 5.2 cents per $100 assessed property value, in addition to their county property taxes. According to RCC Board chair Joseph Lombardo, about 1,400 residential properties located outside of the Reston Master Plan pay RCC taxes and about 350 residential properties in Reston don’t pay RCC taxes.

The non-Reston residents who pay into the RCC showed up in force at the second of two public hearings last week, arguing they don’t feel part of the Reston community and see little reason why they should continue to pay for RCC facilities and programs.

Judy Mannes, a Vienna resident in the small tax district, said the tax district boundaries should be redrawn to include only Reston properties.

“That would be the most equitable arrangement,” said Mannes, whose comments were echoed by several other speakers.

For the most part, Reston residents at the hearing agreed. “I agree that we need to change the boundaries. It’s ridiculous that non-Reston residents pay taxes for a facility they do not use,” said Kathi Robinson, a Reston resident. Several other Reston residents expressed the same view.

“I’m happy to have [non-Reston residents] removed [from the tax district],” said Linda Singer, a long-time Reston resident.

RESIDENTS WERE also asked to consider the elimination of the tax district in exchange for seeking county funding and control.

“For several years, I’ve felt Reston residents have been unfairly taxed,” said Beverly Russo, a Reston resident. “The community center should be funded by the county’s general revenues. To levy a separate tax is wrong and should be stopped.”

But many other Reston residents opposed the suggestion to transfer control of the center to the county, urging the board to maintain the tax district and the current level of RCC services.

“It is crucial that we have control over our programming and our community center,” said Kenneth Bonner, a Reston resident, who told the board he opposed county control of the center.

Helene Shore of Reston said the community center is one of Reston’s “special” amenities, which would be lost or diminished if the county controlled it. “Do not sabotage a central asset of our town,” said Shore.

But if the boundaries were changed, which would reduce the number of total taxpayers, taxes for Restonians might need to be increased, suggested Lombardo. “As we look to the future, we may find there are financial pressures because of a budget shortfall caused by a smaller tax base,” he said.

Despite this possibility, a majority of Reston residents seemed to support the preservation of services and local control.

WITH THE PUBLIC hearings concluded, the RCC Board has listened to more than 80 speakers and received written statements from about 120 additional people. At any of its future meetings, the RCC Board could vote to change the boundaries as a recommendation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which would have final say in the matter.