Four-Cent Tax Rate Increase, with Side of Vitriol

Four-Cent Tax Rate Increase, with Side of Vitriol

Reconsideration hours later gives same result; board will consider putting meals tax to referendum in November.

More than 50 percent of Fairfax County’s $3.988 billion budget will be transferred to Fairfax County Public Schools, $68 million less than FCPS requested.

More than 50 percent of Fairfax County’s $3.988 billion budget will be transferred to Fairfax County Public Schools, $68 million less than FCPS requested. Fairfax County

Budget Town Meetings

  • Sully District / Sully District Council Budget Meeting

Monday, March 7, 7 p.m., Rocky Run Middle School - "Little Theatre" - 4400 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly

  • Providence District Budget Council Budget Town Hall Meeting

Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m., Providence Community Center - 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax - Multi-Purpose Room 2

  • Mason District Budget Meeting

Wednesday, March 16, 7 p.m., Mason District Government Center, 6507 Columbia Pike, Annandale - Main Community Room

  • Springfield District Budget Meeting

Wednesday, March 23, 7 p.m., West Springfield Government Center - 6140 Rolling Road, Springfield - Community Room

  • Dranesville District Budget Meeting / McLean Citizens Association (MCA)

Wednesday, March 23, 7:30 p.m., McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean

  • Braddock District Budget Meeting

Monday, March 28, 7:30 p.m., Robinson Secondary School - "Recital Hall" - 5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax

  • Lee District Association of Civic Organizations Community Budget Meeting

Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m., Lee District Governmental Center - 6121 Franconia Road, Alexandria

  • Dranesville District / Great Falls Citizen's Association Budget Meeting

Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m., The Great Falls Grange, 9818 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls

Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted for a four-cent tax rate increase, advertising a tax rate of $1.13 per $100 of assessed value. Hours later, a call to reconsider a higher rate sparked bitterness, anger and even disgust.

In the end, the outcome was the same.

The board rejected Budget Chair Jeff McKay’s motion for a five-cent increase on a 5-5 vote and Mount Vernon Supervisor Daniel Storck’s motion to have a six-cent increase by a 3-7 vote.

But hours later Tuesday afternoon, March 1 after afternoon public hearings were finalized, Supervisor John Foust’s motions to reconsider its advertised tax rate raised jointly by Sully Supervisor Kathy Smith — a tool permitted by Roberts Rules of Order — set off fireworks.

“I’m sorry, it’s appalling, it’s embarrassing,” said Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth. “We’re starting a budget session on the worst foot. We had a full discussion this morning.”

“A robust discussion,” said Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Hudgins said she had come to the meeting planning to advocate for a five-cent increase, but said she was “disturbed” by the reconsideration. “This is childish play, that once you didn’t get your way, you’re going to bring it back.”

Speaking of the School Board, she added, “You can’t always have it your way.”

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross: “I don’t think we should be supporting voter’s remorse.”

“The ends do not justify the means,” said Braddock Supervisor John Cook, who had reluctantly supported the four-cent increase. “I don’t want anybody thinking there was a mistake.”

Foust kept composed. If there’s not enough support, he said, “we’ll find out. We have this process available to us.”

Lee Supervisor McKay said, “I support this, to get back to the original, responsible motion that I made,” for a 5-cent increase.

Chairman Sharon Bulova kept order, and supported the motion to reconsider.

“There’s a process that allows for this,” said Bulova. “So I am respectful that a member asked for it to be reconsidered.”

The motion to reconsider failed with a 5-5 tie vote.

THE BUDGET BUILT and presented by County Executive Ed Long calls for a four-cent tax rate increase, about $300 for the average household in Fairfax County, but also left Fairfax County Public Schools with a shortfall of $68 million.

The Fairfax County School Board, parents and other school advocates have been leaning heavily on the Board of Supervisors to advertise a higher tax increase to “fully fund” the school budget. The discourse has not always been collegial.

"The Board of Supervisors' decision today to set the advertised (maximum) tax rate at four cents is disappointing because it guarantees that the county and schools budgets cannot both be fully funded, denying the community its rightful role in that conversation. Today's decision is discouraging for the thousands of community members who have reached out to the School Board and the Board of Supervisors this year to advocate for a voice in this very important conversation about values and priorities,” said School Board Chairman Pat Hynes.

Cook directed a rebuke at the School Board. “If we don’t do it exactly the way you want, [you say] ‘you are bad people.’ We’re not. I have children in the school system too.”

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS can adopt a tax rate that is lower, but not higher, than what was advertised at its board meeting Tuesday, March 1.

Each penny on the real estate tax rate provides $23 million in revenue.

The motion to advertise a four-cent increase passed 7-3.

“I’m disappointed that the same people who advocated for flexibility voted against flexibility,” McKay said. “They’ve boxed in the Board of Supervisors and tied our hands. It’s now nearly impossible to meet the superintendent’s request. I strongly believe that would have been possible at 5 cents and that is why I put forward this responsible rate.”

Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity spoke against raising the tax rate. “Our residents are having to make difficult decisions around their kitchen tables as job and wage growth stagnates. We need to get our economy going and the commercial tax base back. ... Until then, we have to make the same tough choices that our residents are having to make and until we do I cannot ask them to absorb a six-percent increase this year.”

The board also asked for more information regarding putting a meals tax on the ballot in November. The board's legislative agenda has supported diversifying the tax base, taking some tax burden off homeowners, according to a statement by the county. Under state law, if the board wishes to adopt a meals tax, the voters must decide in the form of a referendum. The restaurant industry and chambers of commerce have strongly opposed a meals tax.

The County Executive’s Advertised Budget, which calls for a four-cent increase, transfers more than $2 billion to FCPS and provides over 52 percent of County General Fund revenues to the schools, according to county documents.

There are a number of opportunities for residents to share comments and concerns regarding the county budget between now and April 19. In addition to budget town meetings and forums throughout the county, three days of budget public hearings will be held at the Fairfax County Government Center on April 5-7.