The BOCS Halloween Financial Retreat begins today. Instead of going to some swanky place to convene, to their credit, the PWC BOCS are staying put and doing their work right at County Complex.

Their task is daunting. Running a county on a $190 million dollar shortfall is not for the faint of heart nor for one with a personal agenda. Pre-released agenda documents pretty much spelled out how dire the situation is.

At root of the financial problem is the huge, disproportionate amount of foreclosures in PWC. Each foreclosure lowers the property values of the houses around it. Many people have seen an almost 50% drop in the value of their home in the past 2 years.

The loss of value of the homes naturally changes the property tax assessments. As if things weren’t bad enough, sales tax receipts have dropped for 5 months in a row. The county is hurting.

Each county department was directed to create a budget with 10%, 20%, and 30% cuts. Looking through the documents, there were some extremely severe cuts. All eyes will be on the public safety departments first.

According to the Washington Post:

An advance copy of a report of the fiscal outlook prepared by the county executive’s office suggests that to close the gap for fiscal 2009-10 there probably won’t be any increases in police and fire department staffing. It also means potentially eliminating some capital improvement and road projects. In coming years, parks and libraries might face the same fate, the report says.

“We are not looking for any decisions,” County Executive Craig S. Gerhart said of today’s meeting.

Another option the board will consider is increasing the property tax rate from 97 cents to $1.13 per $100 of assessed value. But because house values have decreased so sharply, the average homeowner’s tax bill would still decrease by 18 percent. Last year, supervisors raised the average tax bill 5 percent to help offset the shortfall.

Even after scrubbing the budget, eliminating some capital projects and increasing the tax rate, the county would still have a $26 million gap to close. That’s where service cuts would come in.
Gerhart asked county departments and agencies to show him what their budgets would look like cut by 10, 20 and 33 percent.

If the police department’s budget shrank 20 percent, it would have to eliminate the Criminal Alien Unit, a key function of the county’s policy to crack down on illegal immigration. It also means Prince William would lose its ability to work with federal authorities in processing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

“I can’t imagine we are ever going to cut into safety that much,” said Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large). “We spent a grueling year putting this policy in place. At a minimum, we are not going to scrap it.”

Unlike other Washington area jurisdictions, Prince William officials do not predict a deficit for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. Spending is down $7 million for the first three months.

Corey Stewart once again speaks as if he is in the sole position of decision making, rather than being one of eight. Several fiscal conservatives have always pushed to have the 287(g) program only at the ADC because it is far less expensive to operate from there. Perhaps that is an area that needs closer inspection.

Chairman Stewart has bragged all over the country of the savings that the Immigration Resolution will bring to the county. It is time for him to pony up with this savings because it sure looks like we are in for a long, rough, tumultuous ride along the bare bones highway.

12 Thoughts to “All Eyes are on the PWC Budget”

  1. Alanna

    Two days before Corey voted to change the policy he stated – “the policy would be changed over his dead body” and that the cameras would be funded.

    Personally, with only 1.6% identified as illegals and the majority of those on misdemeanors then combine that with the new state law then it really calls into question if this is the best use of resources. But I’ll agree it has been a grueling year.

  2. Elena

    Why is Corey still clinging to his false reality? Alanna, you took the “words” right out of my mouth! How is public safety at risk, to consider cutting the arrest portion of 287g, when 98.6 of the crimes are committed by legal residents! He would rather cut regular police to help deal with the 98.6 then cut the crimial alien unit to deal with 1.6? Seriously, does this make ANY ANY ANY logical sense?!!!!!!! Does he forget there is STILL 287G at the jails? When is it time to be fiscally responsible. Oh, on a side note, can’t wait til Silver Lake opens up in the Spring for residents! Oh wait, I’m thinking that parks are going to get doubly screwed in cuts. Who needs parks and libraries for children anyway. Yes, let Corey keep his little “anti illegal immigration resolution baby” and the rest of the county be damned.

  3. Moon-howler

    Doesn’t the PD criminal alien unit do other things when not addressing criminal aliens?

    Aren’t they regular cops with regular cop duties who have special powers because of training?

    How much will it cost now they are trained to keep them having special powers? Does anyone know?

  4. Someone, please do a Jib-Jab vid of Stewart?

  5. Lucky Duck

    It costs nothing for the Officers to maintain the certification of 287(G) once they have it.

    The Criminal Alien Unit is composed of “regular” officers/detectives who focus specifically on criminals who are wanted illegal aliens, illegal aliens who are on probation (from this jurisdiction or others) as well as any criminal activity involving suspects that have been identified as being illegal aliens. These cases involve gang related crimes, identity theft, burglary, rape, homicide, and a host of others.

  6. Moon-howler

    Thanks Lucky Duck. I was hoping you would drop by with a more thorough explanation.

    So it would save us no money at all to disband the criminal alien unit, it sounds like.

    It doesn’t sound like the jail could possibly do their job.

  7. Lucky Duck

    The money to establish the criminal alien unit has already been spent. The training has been paid for and conducted. In addition, the police department was supposed to get additional positions to backfill those officers/detectives that were taken to fill that unit. However, those positions were the ones cut in the first budget go around. So the police department is allocated a specific number of positions, where those positions are assigned does not make a difference in budget savings, so if they were moved back to their former positions, no savings would be realized.

    There is no cash to be saved by cutting that unit, it would simply be a reassignment of positions. Those type of cases that the unit currently investigates would not be done because only they have the federal authority in such criminal investigations. The ADC 287(G) program would not monitor illegal immigrants who are on probation or investigate the legal status of gang members UNLESS that are committed to jail.

  8. Moon-howler

    It sounds to me like the criminal alien unit is needed. We need to prioritize getting their positions backfilled.

    I have never understood why, if a person commits a crime, it should matter what their status is. If you do something bad, you get caught, you get prosecuted.

  9. Lucky Duck

    The difference is that someone who does not have legal status is flagged for deportation after they complete their sentence. That part of the process is actually pretty efficient and works well on a regular basis.

    Those backfilled positions are gone, off the books, already removed from the rosters. It would take a reallocation by the BOCS to place those positions back in the department and in this budget environment, I don’t think that will happen.

  10. By Cheryl Chumley

    Published: October 31, 2008

    More foreclosures are on the way and the impact on Prince William County’s five-year fiscal budget plan beginning 2010 – federal bailout bill influences to the side – is one of projected shortfall, tightened pocketbook and delayed capital improvement projects.

    That’s according to presentations from budget, finance, administrative and departmental staff to supervisors at a day-long meeting Friday aimed at clarifying the county’s economic outlook in hopes of taking steps to prevent the worst case from occurring.

    At the same time, some good news in the county’s housing market is beginning to sprout: In August, 934 homes were sold, compared to 305 a year ago. Put in context, though, the damper is that most of those sales in-volved bank-owned properties, said Chris Martino, county finance director.

    The reality is the rate of bank-owned properties has soared to such heights that the method by which housing valua-tions are determined may be changed.

    “Unfortunately, we’re looking at … over 80 percent of the market is bank sales,” Martino said. “Banks are not motivated to drive a hard bargain. Banks are driving those sales prices lower.”

    In a normal market, the county doesn’t figure in the prices of few and far between distressed properties as part of its housing valuations.

    “Now those sales are the market,” said Craig Gerhart, county executive, and future assessments are going to have to take these low sales prices into consideration.

    It’s a sure buyer’s-priced market that nonetheless leaves the county in a financial crunch. While cur-rent fiscal year numbers estimated residential values would drop 10 percent by 2010, the latest predictions are for a 30 percent drop—and dwindling revenues from real estate taxes aren’t likely to disappear from the list of county budget considerations for quite a while.

    Nationally, the housing market is at the tail end of a period that saw the resetting of subprime rates and the subse-quent inability of many homeowners to pay. That drove the foreclosure rate; the country faces a similar scenario in the coming months with homeowners who chose optional adjustable rate loans.

    This is an example of what’s to come, according to Martino: Say a homeowner borrowed $500,000 to pur-chase a home a few years ago. Rather than choosing the 30-year, fixed rate path, this homeowner instead contracted to pay only the interest each month. As such, monthly payments never decreased the principal.

    Under such terms, the amount owed would in effect increase each month.

    “Interest each month would be added to the principal,” Martino said. “So the next month, the loan amount would be $502,000, the next month, $504,000, the next month, $506,000.”

    After the first five years, the interest rate resets—and it’s into this time period that the nation is about to enter.

    Homeowners with optional adjustable rates could see their low 2 or 3 percent interest charges suddenly jump by several points. Those without the extra income—the extra hundreds of dollars needed each month to pay the mort-gage—could default and head to foreclosure.

    “That’s exactly what happened with the

    subprime loans,” Martino said. “So that’s on the horizon and we’ve been concerned about that. The bailout bill is … tied directly to address this problem. Otherwise, nationwide, this will be another wave of loans that will go bad, go into foreclosure and drive the market down.”

    Still, the success of the bailout bill depends on the cooperation of banks to release money for lending, and as Super-visor Martin Nohe, R-Coles, said, the legislation did not contain such a mandate.

    It’s with this in mind that supervisors heard preliminary suggestions for fiscal 2010 tax rates. For homeown-ers, the news ranged from decent to better: not one of the four rates discussed resulted in higher real estate tax bills for residents. The worst that could happen, according to the numbers presented, was that bill amounts would remain the same.

    That only holds true if homeowners don’t add to the value of their property by building the likes of a garage or a swimming pool, Nohe reminded.

    A flat tax rate of 97 cents would lower the average residential bill by 30 percent—the minimum would be 20 per-cent—and the average commercial bill by 10 percent, the numbers show.

    “A wonderful scenario for the taxpayer,” Gerhart said, “but I think this has some pretty catastro-phic effects” on the county.

    At the other end of the spectrum, he continued, was a flat tax rate of nearly $1.39 that could subject some homeown-ers and some commercial entities to increases of 14 percent and “even more startlingly,” 29 percent, respectively. The average homeowner, however, would see no change in the tax bill with this rate.

    Under the third considered rate, $1.21, residential bills would drop on average by 13 percent, while commercial bills would increase on average by about the same. The fourth rate, $1.13, would decrease residential bills between 7 percent and 18 percent, but increase commercial payments by 5 percent.

    Rates were for discussion purposes only, to give supervisors a sense of what effect different rates in this tight budget climate might have.

    Staff writer Cheryl Chumley can be reached at 703-670-1907.

  11. Elena

    Hi Lucky Duck,
    Let me make sure I understand this correctly. There is no money to be saved from our budget if we only require 287 g at the jails? I am confused then, what part of the illegal immigration component is reflected in savings from the Police budget that was submitted?

  12. Moon-howler

    I think I have it. When the criminal alien unit was formed, the people were taken from existing positions. There was a gentleman’s agreement between the PD and the BOCS that the positions that were left open by the departure of the 6 into the criminal alien unit would be filled (and funded)

    The empty positions were neither filled nor funded. In fact, funding was cut. So there was no net gain of officers by adding the criminal alien unit. The training and whatever else is involved has been bought and paid for. No new costs will be incurred.

    The criminal alien unit performs duties that other officers cannot, under federal law, perform as listed above by Lucky Duck. If the CAU were dissolved tomorrow, those same officers would be on the payroll and would revert back into doing normal cop things rather than specialized duties.

    How close did I get to the PWC Budget for Dummies description? People used to dealing with these things have no idea how difficult comprehention of such matters is for the common man and woman.

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