Sunday, 19 February 2012

Proposed budget would raise real estate tax rate

Residential tax bills in Prince William County would increase by an average of $110 if a budget plan laid out by the county executive is adopted by the Board of County Supervisors.

County Executive Melissa S. Peacor’s proposed budget of $912.6 million for the next fiscal year calls for a tax rate of $1.215 per $100 of assessed value, an increase over this fiscal year’s rate of $1.204 per $100 of assessed value. That would bring the average real estate tax bill to $3,311, according to Peacor’s presentation. The next-closest real estate tax bill is Alexandria’s average of $4,485.

Peacor’s budget outline sets the stage for Tuesday’s Board of County Supervisors meeting, where low-tax proponents — including Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) — will face a decision about which tax rate to advertise. Although the final budget will not be adopted until April, the advertised rate will effectively set a budget cap. Per state law, Prince William’s final real estate tax rate cannot exceed the advertised rate they are scheduled to set Tuesday.

Meanwhile, schoolteachers have lobbied the Board of County Supervisors for more funds, particularly for salary increases. Some teachers are protesting with a “work to the rule” campaign, in which they are working only the hours specified in their contracts.

About 57 percent of the county’s budget is allocated toward schools.

Stewart said in an interview that he disagrees with Peacor’s proposal. “I will not vote for an increase in the tax rate,” Stewart said. He said that he hopes to advertise a tax rate that calls for flat or lower real estate tax bills.

Stewart said that the elected School Board has to spend its money based on its priorities but that state budget cuts were mostly to blame for the schools’ austerity. Proposed cuts in “cost to compete” funding are landing heavily on Prince William, he said, and he is working with state legislators to reinstate those dollars.

“If the school system wants us to completely replace state funding cuts, we would have to raise tax bills significantly and . . . we’re not going to be putting that burden on the local taxpayer,” he said.

School Board Chairman Milton C. Johns couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Stewart said one item that he thinks can be cut from Peacor’s proposed budget is the Central District Police Station, which has generated some neighborhood opposition. Stewart said it needs to be built at some point but could probably be pushed off to the future.

Peacor’s facility budget calls for a new station near Davis Ford Road and Prince William Parkway to maintain response times and relieve overcrowding of the area’s other police stations. The station would cost of $28.1 million over the next three fiscal years.

Other big-ticket items include $464,913 for a new community development office in the eastern part of the county. The budget also includes a 3 percent merit pay raise for county staff members and funds for 12 new police officers, among other additions.

House values went up slightly last year by an average of 2.5 percent.


No comments:

Post a Comment