Letter: Is Current Spending Valid?

Letter: Is Current Spending Valid?

To the Editor:

The March 22-28, 2012 Mount Vernon Gazette front page article “Hyland Calls For a Meals Tax” that would impose a 4 percent tax on meals that is for education and roads. Whenever a tax increase is proposed by politicians, the reasoning almost always is for services that people will respond favorably. Recently, I have been receiving discount coupons from nearby restaurants and a gift card as inducements to visit those restaurants. Such inducements indicate that business is slow and a meals tax may make matters worse.

Regardless of the merits of the meals tax, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should defer any consideration of a meals tax until all board members who are inclined to support such a tax certify to the taxpayers that all county programs and services are essential and that those essential programs and services are achieving their desired objectives and are administered efficiently and at minimum costs to taxpayers.

Based on past actions the Board of Supervisors has not acted in the best financial interests of taxpayers. For example: In 2007 the Board purchased 672 unit Wedgewood Apartments in Annandale for $107.5 million but the assessed value was only $49.5 million or only 46.05 percent of the purchase price. Renovation costs would add to the taxpayer burden. Lamond property of 17.9082 acres in Mount Vernon was purchased for $4.6 million with an assessed value of only $1.5 million and another smaller parcel in Mount Vernon was purchased for $980,000 with an assessed value of $65,635. Before the parcel could be used, another $1.4 million had to be spent to clean up the fuel contamination in the land. In these cases, if the assessment were correct the county paid way too much. If the purchase price was correct, the assessments resulted in less tax revenue. In either case, the taxpayers are the losers.

In June 2011, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy issued a report disclosing the subsidizing of “affordable housing” that is actually for “luxury units.” Pictures in the report shows the housing units involved are very plush costing county taxpayers unnecessarily. The report states “… in Fairfax County the idea of ‘affordable housing’ has created a counter-productive housing situation which are not what the vast majority of taxpayers expect from their government. To the Fairfax County Government ‘affordable housing’ can include upper income communities and amenities far nicer than expected by most taxpayers who pay for this subsidized housing.”

The amenities include “… resort-style swimming pools with fountains and heated spas; men’s and women’s cabanas with showers; executive business centers with computers, printers and internet access; clubrooms with kitchen, fireplaces, televisions with DVDs; 24-hour athletic centers with stereo systems and televisions; billiard room, barbeque grills, outdoor gazeboes and indoor basketball courts.”

Is that what “affordable housing” is supposed to include that is subsidized by hardworking county taxpayers’ dollars?

The Lamond property mentioned earlier sits vacant. According to the County tax assessment records, the current assessment value is $11 million. Since this property and other vacant land owned by the Board of Supervisors, tax revenue is being lost because the land is off the tax rolls. The Board could probably sell some of the vacant land it owns to increase real estate tax revenue because the land would be on the tax rolls once again. The one time revenue derived from the sales and continuing real estate taxes thereafter could be sufficient to avoid any tax increase that adds to the heavy financial burden of many struggling to make ends meet.

I urge the supervisors to carefully consider any proposal to increase any taxes particularly during the current weak U.S. economy. Also, in addition to the Board of Supervisors certification I mentioned earlier, I strongly urge the Board to appoint an independent study team that includes experienced business men and women to make a top to bottom review of all county organizations, programs and services to provide information to the Board and public that the county is doing everything possible to keep financial demands to a minimum while providing essential programs, services as efficiently as possible and at minimum cost.

I urge everyone to call your supervisor and let him/her know your views. This is an appropriate time since the Board is considering the County Executive’s proposed budget. You can obtain your supervisor’s phone number by call the Clerk to the Board at 703-324-3151. You can get a copy of the housing report “Subsidized Luxury in Fairfax County” mentioned above by calling 703-440-9447 or email info@thomasjeffersoninst.org.

Frank Medico

Mount Vernon