Posted On 09 Mar 2018
Dear Chairman Bulova,
My neighbors and I were deeply disturbed to read your February newsletter supporting yet ANOTHER property tax increase for Fairfax County homeowners.
The FY 2019 budget proposal came with an unpleasant surprise for taxpayers — an over 5% tax increase for the average homeowner (over 6.25% in my case) — for more than a 25% increase over the last five years. These increases are a result of combined raises in the tax rate and assessments. Once again, this year, the assessment increases are higher in the areas least able to afford them. While the tax bills continue to grow in Fairfax, wages have not, especially for our growing population of seniors and our dwindling population of millennials. The Board of Supervisors (Board) are literally taxing our tax paying residents out of the county. Is this the Board’s long-term goal?
This tax increase is in addition to the many hundreds of dollars residents must pay for the personal property tax on our cars. Such a tax encourages residents to drive older, less fuel-efficient cars that break down more frequently, increasing the traffic backups on our roads.
As a CPA by training, I attended last year’s Town Hall meeting with the County Executive to discuss the upcoming County budget. Copies of the budget were handed out, with the usual soliloquies of how the Board squeezed all they could from the budget. In less than an hour, I identified millions of dollars in potential savings that wouldn’t impact the County’s BASIC mission. It is all a matter of choices, and the Board of Supervisors has not shown the leadership to make the real cuts necessary. Suggesting there is no more to cut is simply a straw man argument.
As I stated in last year’s email, in addition to a public engagement period, the County could setup a website, which encourages residents to identify possible cuts in county programs that will reduce the budget, thereby eliminating the need for a tax hike.
The 21% increase in taxes over the previous four years should have been enough to fully fund the budget. However, the Board has continued to avoid making tough decisions by trimming around the edges and making cuts from increases instead of making significant, long-term reductions or eliminating out-of-date programs and setting priorities.
As Supervisor Herrity stated in his February newsletter:
I am extremely disappointed that we have reached yet another budget cycle and we have again failed to address our growing pension issues. I have advocated for action on pensions since 2009. As I talk with constituents throughout the County, they are in disbelief that we continue to offer new employees a pension benefit more generous than surrounding jurisdictions on top of a County taxpayer paid social security benefit as early as age 55. Pension costs alone add 30 cents to every payroll dollar and compete for funding with critically needed county services and employee and teacher raises. While not a silver bullet for this budget season, every year we put off pension reform for new employees costs us the ability to fund critical services and address employee and teacher salaries.The residents of Fairfax County made it very clear that they have been taxed enough when they soundly defeated the proposed meals tax just over a year ago. I cannot and will not support increasing the tax burden on our homeowners another 5% this year.
The Board of Supervisors is taking the hard-earned wages of working families in Fairfax County. If these families cannot pay the over 25% increase in taxes, then the county will put a lien on their properties and eventually seize their homes.
Enough is enough. Stop excessively taxing Fairfax County residents; control the spending to stay within established revenue limits. If you cannot control your spending, then the day may arrive when special exemptions for seniors and veterans will have to be eliminated.
Those who advocate raising taxes should work with Supervisors Herrity and Cook who oppose this tax increase. In this manner, we can realize the necessary cuts in the FY 2019 budget and avoid any tax increase.