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County Clips Small Tax District

The borders for the tax district that funds the RCC are redrawn.

Fairfax County agreed Monday night to eliminate households with Herndon, Oakton and Vienna addresses from the boundaries of Small Tax District 5, which funds the Reston Community Center (RCC).

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the new borders after two and a half hours of public comment that came mostly from non-Reston residents who have long been angered about paying the tax. Small Tax District 5 residents currently pay 5.2 cents per $100 assessed property value, in addition to their county property taxes.

“I shouldn’t be paying for discretionary entertainment activities for Reston,” Dennis Burnette of Vienna told the Board of Supervisors.

About 600 homes to the south and east will be taken out of the district, while about 300 homes with Reston addresses to the northwest will be added, resulting in a net loss of about 300 households and four non-residential properties, according to county officials. Tax revenue will decrease by about $210,000, but county staff said the loss “can be accommodated within the overall revenue growth associated with the final real estate assessments of fiscal year 2007.”

The border contraction, which takes affect July 1, also includes the removal of households from the Sully and Dranesville districts. Now Small Tax District 5 only contains homes in the Hunter Mill district represented by Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D), who called for the public hearing on a border change in February.

“I wanted this hearing to allow us to look again at the district in order to keep pace with the changing times,” said Hudgins. “I think it’s appropriate at this time to revise the boundaries to reflect the views that we have heard.”

WHILE NON-RESTON residents have voiced their displeasure about being in the tax district before, their concerns didn’t have traction until last October when three non-Reston residents were elected to the RCC Board of Governors.

On Feb. 11 and 15, RCC held its own public hearings where non-Reston residents came out in force to urge that they be removed from Small Tax District 5.

The new board members who don’t live in Reston — Kevin Deasy, George Lawton and Peter von zur Muehlen — supported the change, though it would result in their removal from the board.

“That’s the deal,” said Von zur Muehlen, who, along with Deasy and Lawton, considers the border change a success.

At the RCC’s hearings and the county’s hearing, non-Reston residents called the tax inequitable and unfair and complained that they didn’t receive RCC mailings, Reston newspapers or the public Reston television station.

“I’m begging you to take this [tax] burden off of us,” said Audrey Markham, a non-Reston resident who added that she’s paid the tax for 31 years.

A GROUP OF Reston residents to the north of the tax district who also wanted to be removed from the tax district were left in. At the hearing, they argued that they didn’t feel part of the Reston community. Other Reston residents who live on the edges of the new borders voiced similar complaints.

“Our community associates with the families, organizations and facilities where our children attend school, which is not the RCC community,” said Michael Fox, president of Ascot Homeowners Association, representing 69 single family homes.

Members of the group said they were not aware of the possible border change until recently. They urged the Board of Supervisors to defer their decision or exclude their neighborhoods from the tax district.

RCC Board Chairman Joseph Lombardo testified that he supported removal of the neighborhoods. “We would support their petitions as being consistent with the spirit of our resolution,” said Lombardo, referring to the board’s recommendation to the county.

SEVERAL RESTON residents attended the hearing to say they supported the wishes of the non-Reston residents to get out of the tax district. They noted that most Reston residents not only support the community center, but also don’t mind paying the tax.

“The Reston Community Center is truly a unique institution,” said William Penniman of Reston. “And the people of Reston do strongly support the community center.”

RCC Board Member Bill Bouie pointed to recent figures in a 2004 survey commissioned by the RCC. The survey had 1,200 respondents from the tax district. “Ninety-two percent said that the RCC is somewhat or very important to the quality of life in Reston. Eighty-eight percent said that the RCC makes Reston a more attractive place to live,” said Bouie.