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Friday, March 31, 2023
FairfaxSupervisors plan modest tax-rate relief for property owners

Supervisors plan modest tax-rate relief for property owners

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on April 26 approved a markup of the proposed fiscal 2023 budget that features more than $199 million worth of revenue reductions and unrecognized revenue to provide tax relief to residents buffeted by inflation and higher property and vehicle assessments.

The bad news: Homeowners on average still will pay $465 more this year.

The driving force behind the budget-markup discussion was board members’ desire to provide some tax relief to residents, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).

“Overall, the Board of Supervisors was pleased with the investments included in the county executive’s FY 2023 advertised budget plan, including the emphasis on employee pay and support for the Fairfax County Public Schools,” McKay said.


Supervisors approved the markup, which likely will not be alerted when the board adopts the new budget May 10, on a 9-1 vote, with Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield) voting in the negative.

Under the markup, the county’s real-estate-tax rate will decrease by 3 cents to $1.11 per $100 assessed value. This will lower county revenue by more than $88 million, but average tax bills still will rise 6.7 percent more than last year. (County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget left the tax rate untouched, which would have caused average tax bills to jump by $666.)

The average real-estate-tax hike will be the most significant since 2006, Herrity said.

“This is not a budget I can support, given the very realistic options to bring down the rate much further,” he said. “We could have achieved a flat tax rate if we were willing to make the same tough choices our residents have to make every day.”

The county’s budget has grown by 40 percent over the last decade, Herrity said.

Other supervisors were more upbeat about the budget.

“We have [gone] from a very good budget to what I believe is one of the best budgets I have seen on this board,” said Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence), who was elected in 2019 and began serving in January 2020.

“You can starve a community by not investing in it and I’ve seen it happen across the Rust Belt,” Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville). “The investments we make benefit every single member of this community – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually everyone benefits from what this board is doing.”

Supervisors at the meeting also conducted a third-quarter budget review for the county government and school system, which included more than $26 million in additional revenue, plus spending and reserve adjustments of about $24 million.

This left supervisors with a balance of slightly more than $2 million, all of which the board directed toward affordable-housing efforts. County officials recently increased their goal from 5,000 to 10,000 new affordable dwellings by 2034, said McKay, adding that the fiscal 2023 budget will restore 1 cent on the tax rate for affordable housing.

Board members voted 9-1 to allot the balance in that way, with Herrity again voting nay.

County officials predict personal-property tax bills will rise significantly this year, potentially giving the county $98 million more in revenues. Supervisors agreed with staff’s recommendation to tax vehicles at 85 percent of their assessed value, instead of the usual 100 percent.

To bolster economic-development efforts and small businesses, supervisors plan to reduce the county’s machinery-and-tools tax from $4.57 to $2 per $100 of assessed value. Officials also are considering changes to the depreciation schedule, McKay said.

The measures are designed to make Fairfax County more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions and “help to attract and keep vibrant local businesses in the county,” he said.

County employees stand to benefit from the budget as well, with first-responders gaining the most. Pay on average will increase 7.86 percent for uniformed public-safety personnel and 6.16 percent for non-uniformed employees under the proposed budget.

The county continues to suffer recruitment and retention issues, especially in its public-safety agencies, where new employees are being hired at pay levels of more tenured workers, McKay said.

To address those pay-compression issues and encourage lower-ranking uniformed employees to stay with the county, County officials have proposed setting aside $6.1 million to bump up by one pay grade public-safety workers who were hired on or before June 30 last year.

Those employees must be on specified pay scales and have obtained satisfactory performance evaluations during this fiscal year. The extra funds almost exclusively will benefit public-safety workers in the first two ranks, McKay said.

Uniformed workers who qualify for that adjustment in fiscal 2023 could see pay hikes of up to 14 percent, when combined with the other market-rate and step increases, he said.

“What we have before us is a responsible budget,” McKay said. “It ensures that we maintain our triple-A bond rating, fully funds our reserves, fully funds our annual pension requirements [and] recognizes that the county, like our residents, is not immune to inflationary concerns.”

The fiscal 2023 budget will take effect July 1.

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