Story was corrected on March 10, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider raising the county’s real estate tax rate as they craft the county’s budget plan for fiscal 2015.
The board is under pressure from teacher and parent organizations to raise the tax rate in order to provide additional funding for schools. County Executive Ed Long’s proposed budget for fiscal 2015 includes a 2 percent increase in schools spending, but that represents about $64 million less than the School Board asked for.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 to advertise a maximum real estate tax rate of $1.105 cents per $100 of assessed value, a two-cent increase over the current rate. The board can adopt a lower rate when it approved the budget in late April, but not a higher rate.
Long’s budget was based on the current tax rate of $1.085 per $100 of assessed value. Due to appreciation in home values, even keeping the rate flat means a tax increase for most county residents; a $330 increase based on the average home value in the county.
Each penny the real estate tax rate is raised means another $50 to the average homeowner and about $22 million in additional revenue to the county.
Although they backed advertising the higher rate to provide flexibility in budget discussions, most supervisors said they would do everything in their power to avoid the 2-cent rate increase.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large), who is also head of the Budget Committee, said she will seek ways to adopt a budget with less than a 2-cent increase, even as she made the motion to advertise the higher rate.
“I believe it is fair and prudent to advertise this higher threshold so that public discussion and debate is not cut off at the start,” she said.
Most board members expressed similar sentiments. In an amendment the board approved on a 9-1 vote, Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) asked Long to come up with a list of about $15 million to $20 million in potential reductions in county spending for the board to consider as well.
Long’s budget includes about a 4 percent increase in county general fund spending over last year’s adopted budget, including a small pay increase for county employees and 58 new staff positions.
Bulova said she wants to consider finding a way to fund a higher cost-of-living increase for county employees as well as considering additional funding for the school system.
Supervisors Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) and Linda Smyth (D-Providence) did not support advertising the higher tax rate, citing concerns about the effect of increased taxes on their constituents.
Herrity said that his aunt, a longtime county resident, is considering leaving the county because she is struggling to afford her rising real estate tax bill.
Smyth cited communities of 40- and 50-year-old homes seeing 10 percent increases in their assessments, and therefore their tax bills. Some areas of her district are also affected by a new surtax to fund infrastructure needs in Tysons, which is also proposed to increase this year.
“I am really concerned about this,” Smyth said. “People are reaching their limits here.”
Public hearings on the budget will take place in early April and the board is slated to approve the final budget April 29.
The original version of this story misidentifield Sharon Bulova.