At tomorrow’s PWC Supervisors’ meeting, an advertised tax rate will be determined.  Last year’s discussion, included no less than 7 votes before a final rate was adopted.  This year should be equally as interesting.

I have concerns about the numbers proposed by Chairman Stewart as he proports to claim an average $548 savings.  Our personal property tax bill is determined by our Assessed Value divided by 100 then multiplied by the tax rate plus some additional fees ie stormwater.  Our previous tax rate was 98 cents, Stewart now proposes $1.19 which is a 21 cent increase.  The proported decrease in the bill will be due to the lowered assessed rates.  So, how much value will you have had to lose in your home to qualify for the $548 ‘savings’?  $112,500.

Then we have Chairman Stewart’s pretty package spin which conveniently ignores the $112,500 in average home value loss but instead focusus on the ‘savings’.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will vote this Tuesday March 3 on advertising a property tax rate. I am proposing a rate that will reduce tax bills for homeowners by an average of $548.00 (a 16 % reduction). I want to thank Supervisors Maureen Caddigan (Dumfries), Wally Covington (Brentsville) and John Stirrup (Gainesville) for joining me in supporting this tax relief.

This tax rate of $1.198 will support the County Executive’s proposed budget, which reduces government spending by $56 million compared to last fiscal year without cutting any of our uniformed police or fire and rescue personnel. The County Executive’s budget is responsible and sustainable. By focusing our resources, it allows us to protect vital county services while providing tax relief to you during these uncertain times.

To pass this tax reduction, we need at least five supervisors to vote this Tuesday in support of the $1.198 tax rate. Please email the Board at BOCS@pwcgov.org urging the whole Board to join Supervisors Stirrup, Covington, Caddigan and myself in supporting this rate and ensuring tax relief for you.

Please be sure to tune into Comcast Channel 23 or Verizon FIOS Channel 37 to see how your supervisor votes.

Corey A. Stewart
Chairman
Prince William Board of County Supervisors
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
(703) 792-4640 – Telephone/(703) 792-4637 – Fax

cstewart@pwcgov.org
www.pwcgov.org

30 Thoughts to “Prince William County Tax Rate Discussion $112,500 Home Value Loss equals $548 ‘Savings’”

  1. ShellyB

    I’ve heard of a revolving door between the lobbying company and the legislative bench, but this is ridiculous! Does Corey get an extra salary for doing both jobs simultaneously?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Corey Stewart seems to have taken over sole responsibility for lobbying his fellow Board members. That’s an improvement over going through Gospel Greg Letiecq.

  2. A PW County Resident

    Actually I wish that people would stop talking about “raising taxes” or “lowering taxes”. Why don’t we try to figure out what we want to do in this county and then figure out how much in taxes to collect?

  3. ShellyB

    Yeah, especially since this is actually an even bigger tax hike than last year, only Corey Stewart is spinning it as a tax cut.

  4. Moon-howler

    A PW Resident, I am in total agreement with you on that one.

  5. Moon-howler

    There seems to be something sort of devious about that email. Help me lobby the other supervisors to get a low tax rate. Personally, I think the future is too uncertain to lock ourselves into a Corey-type no new taxes situation.

    On the other hand, I don’t have a supervisor. Mine is a clone of Corey. I think I will lobby outside my magisterial district. Let’s see, who is left? Jenkins (who has more budget sense than the rest of them put together), Principi, Nohe, and May. On the other hand, can we be sure that Corey speaks the truth? Have Caddigan and Covington joined him in his quest for a third world county without sufficient cops, teachers or firefighters? Has anyone noticed that most of our crimes (by category) are increasing rather than decreasing?

  6. Off topic, but same meeting — if you think Habitat for Humanity is making a difference in the community, please support them at the March 3 Public Hearing at 7:30 p.m. at the McCoart Building. Habitat wants the county to rezone Websters Way off Hoadly Road so they can sell the property and use the proceeds from the sale of the land to pay back the federal grant that was used to purchase the parcel. Any additional funds received will be used to purchase existing homes in the community that can be rehabbed and sold to Habitat’s family partners while it is still financially feasible to do so. If Habitat is not able to rezone the property they will have to build three, one-acre homes amid continuing neighborhood opposition, placing their new family partner homeowners in the precarious financial position of having to pay taxes on one-acre properties.

    For more information: http://www.habitatpwc.org/files/BTN_Winter_2009.pdf

  7. M-H,

    I am never one to argue against a cap on taxes. But not all the data is in, thus the other Supervisors had refrained from taking a public position on where to cap them. I wonder how they feel about Stewart making their mind up for them? Stirrup is the only one without an independent thought process as you rightly observe/lament. The others cannot be too happy to find themselves being bullied once again.

    Stewart is trying to claim he is for low taxes again, after spending the previous budget season trying so desperately to raise them. I for one am glad to see his usual trickery put to use as a fiscal conservative. Better his back stabbing be at the expense of his fellow Board members than the future and prosperity of this county.

  8. Opinion

    A PW County Resident, Didn’t Ronald Reagan sat something like that? I absolutely agree… decide which services you need to provide and then collect the taxes to pay for them.

    An interesting read is Ronald Reagan’s announcement that he intended to run for President (13 Nov 1979). It sounds like the issues haven’t changed that much. Check it out at: http://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan/speeches/speech.asp?spid=4

  9. T Andrews

    I for one applaud Supvs. Stewart, Stirrup, Covington, and Caddigan for taking the position that basically says that the advertised rate of taxation is, in reality, the actual tax rate. It may not be the rate initially, but taxes are like filling a room with water. Eventually it will reach the ceiling. It is a way of making the rate higher without actually coming out and saying it out loud. To set the rate at a certain capped limit for this cycle will give the county budget staff an unambigous solid number with which to work. At that point, whatever hard choices must be made will be made. There is a measure of merit in the concept of flexibility, but given human nature, that flexibility undoubtedly will result in the rate reaching the higher advertised rate as we naturally try to avoid making hard decisions about the budget in the future. In this new age of “transparency” it only makes sense that we establish and publish the county tax rate as it actually is. If we want the tax rate to be the higher number, then the board should stand up, state it publically and vote to set the hard cap at the higher number and make that the tax rate. If not, then they should also stand up and set it at the lower number. To vote for a flexible grey area in the rate seems to me to be avoiding future accountability. Basically, I believe that if you are going to advertise a tax rate then that should be the tax rate. At that point residents, business owners and county agencies will know the true financial forecast and make whatever adustments are necessary to move forward. At least we have 4 supervisors willing to stand up, put their names on something and go about the business of making it work.

  10. A PW County Resident

    Opinion, I don’t recall about Mr. Reagan. I have worked in government and I see too often how budgets lead to terrible methods of governing. Usually, rather than using the difficult method of actually evaluating, it is too often an “across the board cut.” What a ridiculous way of evaluating programs and of governing. Usually it is because governments tend to deal with issues during a small window when they are under the gun–budget time.

    There will always be a constituency for each program and those competing interests make them difficult choices but in the end, the competition usually produces better decisions. Besides, what program is so good in its planning stage that it wouldn’t benefit from a review to see how to do it better?

    Better doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper but I would rather pay for a good program than to pay for a bunch of inefficient ones. Then I would at least feel that my dollar is spending 80 to 90 cents for something good. (The remainder is overhead thus although necessary doesn’t usually involve directly accomplishing the goal.)

  11. Moon-howler

    From what I know of this budget slicing and dicing, across the boards were not done. Different agencies within the PW government were looked at differently.

    The danger in setting that tax rate that low is, once it is set, it can go now higher. So why not do that? Give us some wiggle room. Give our county the room to hold discussions.

    Today’s News and Messenger indicates that some of the supervisors now realize that rate just boxes them into a Corey Corner. Many are looking at the more flexible $1.29 rate. They can always lower it.

    The main problem is, the supervisors do not know what the housing values will be in April when they have to vote on an actual rate.

    Once again, Corey lobbies, yes LOBBIES, for a rate to make him look good, rather than what is best for the county.

    I do not want any cuts made to fire, rescue, or neighborhood services. I also want to protect the schools, in particular, the teacher/pupil ratio. It cannot get higher.

    The supervisors need to do what is right for the county rather than what will give them a good sound bite for the next election.

    Corey has never figured it out that cheaper is not better.

    http://www.insidenova.com/isn/news/local/article/prince_william_supervisors_to_tackle_budget/30935/

  12. T Andrews

    Corey does have to run point on all of these issues as the Chairman but it must be noted, something that is so often conveniently ignored by the anti-Stewart crowd, that there are three other Supervisors including Ms. Caddigan who has immense respect in this county that feel the lower rate is sufficient. It also should be noted that the much maligned Rule of Law resolution was passed unanimously-twice. I don’t always agree with everything the board does but to continuously and singularly blame Mr. Stewart for everything from crime stats to the nationwide housing bubble only serves to degrade the credibility of warranted criticisms.

  13. Moon-howler

    TAndrews, perhaps if Mr. Stewart would quit bragging about it every time he gets a microphone in front of his face, we would stop point out his mistakes.

    I am not so sure some of those much respected supervisors haven’t done some re-thinking. We simply cannot leave our schools with a 1:40 teacher/student ratio. We cannot cut academic programs. We cannot do with fewer cops and firefighters as crime is on the rise. The fire and rescue folks were promised things after the death of one of their own. That isn’t going to happen either, I don’t think.

    Is it really so important for everyone to have tax relief at the expense of education and safety? Actually, I think advertising such a low rate is careless and irresponsible when they aren’t sure what kind of money they are going to be looking at.

    I remember when all the arguing over the Immigration Resolution was going on. All sorts of supporters were saying they didn’t mind their taxes being increased just to ‘get rid of the illegals.’ Well, time to pony up. These same cheapskates want to pay almost no taxes at the expense of schools and public safety. Typical.

  14. Captain Corey’s mass email was intended to create a spectacle and to strong arm his colleagues. Is this really Caddigan’s position? Did she encourage him to send out an electioneering email rather than fact finding and consensus building? Caddigan is a champion of our schools. I truly doubt her primary concern this budget season is the resuscitation of Corey Stewart’s political reputation. In other words, she’s not happy about this email.

  15. […] Anti-BVBL has published the same memo, and the usual string of comments (here). […]

  16. Elena

    WHWN,
    I imagine your theory is right on!

  17. Moon-howler

    That would be my guess also. She usually bargains for money to go to the schools.

  18. anona

    If they set the advertised rate at 1.29, they won’t go lower because they’ll have that long line of people begging for their programs not to be cut. They will end up with 1.29. The county and the schools already did the hard part and decided what could be cut to achieve the 1.19. To go back up 10 cents will create a huge fight over what to allow back in. It is Pandora’s box. My worry is that with 1.29, the tax on businesses is HUGE. The businesses we have that are barely surviving will now get hit with a huge tax incease. Even at 1.19, the businesses were being taxed 6%. With 1.29, it is a 15% tax increase, which most businesses can’t handle. They’ll close up, or lay off people and certainly no new ones will be interested in PWC. Why? So parents like me won’t have to pay the $50 for my kids to play middle school sports?

    The entire board agreed to this rate back in the fall as the rate they would look at if the assessments seemed like they were going to come in at 30% down, which is exactly what happened. That was extraordinary action for them to take in the fall and I applauded their foresight in doing that. Before we would always have the fight in the spring, but this time, it gave the departments the time to really look at their budgets. Who knows why 4 of them have backed away now from the earlier agreement and why 4 have stuck to it?

    Things are so tight for business owners right now that I don’t think the supervisors are going to fill comfortable squeezing them for more.

  19. Moon-howler

    Anon, I think the house values have dropped lower than expected. I don’t know that they agreed to advertise at $1.19. It makes more sense to me to decide what is essential, see how much your base housing value is going to be, and then set the tax rate.

    I have been told that public safety and education will take priority. I wouldn’t mind paying $50 for my middle schooler to play sports. I would mind my middle schooler having a substitute teacher in math or language arts from November till the end of the year because the one they had quit and no one was hired as a replacement.

    I would also mind not having enough police officers on call in the event of an emergency. We are dangerously off target already.

    The business is important for sure. But who wants to do business in a county that has lousy schools and high crime? It’s a real conundrum, for sure. When they find out how much the housing values are, then they can box themselves in a corner.

  20. anona

    In the fall, they gave the county executive the budget guidance rate of 1.18 ?? predicting a 30% drop in value. I don’t know that finance has said values dropped lower than 30% as a county average. I thought the 1.19 figure came after they had a better idea of the percentage drop thus 1.19 made the 1.18 guidance number work in reality. We have to get more business into this county though. Our reliance on residential taxes is far too high and every time we increase that we get in deeper and deeper trouble with the housing ups and downs.

    Everyone has to tighten their belt including PWC. The schools will be hit hard but to say they will become lousy because of a couple of years of tight budgets is to not give credit to our incredible teachers. Some school districts, including Manassas and Culpeper, are even cutting starting teacher salaries. At least we aren’t doing that. The stimulus money will be used to bring back our kindergarten aides and work on the class sizes. The new high school and elementary schools are still on track. The renovations at the middle schools are still on track. Our kids, teachers and administration will rise to the challenge. Once budget times are better, hopefully we’ll put the extra money into teacher salaries as a thank you instead of more programs.

    They’ve said public safety will be a priority so I can’t see high crime becoming a problem. Chief Deane is doing an excellent job. The new race track for training will cost millions for our portion of the cost and it is still on target for breaking ground in April despite the budget. I don’t believe Deane would ever put officers or citizens’ lives at risk for a new piece of asphalt to train on so he must be sure that the public safety component is funded before allocating funds towards extras like the track.

    As a former federal government employee, I can assure you that every budget has a substantial amount of fat built into it. I can’t even begin to describe the new furniture, office re-dos, software programs, and professional training trips that our department spent money on, but if anyone tried to cut our budget we screamed and howled.

    Although I’m not happy about the cuts, I think going through a major budget cutting stage every 10 years ago is probably like a colonic cleanse for government. Get out some of that sludge and then when times get better you have a better idea of where to spend your money effectively.

    Personally my family has tightened things up this year quite a bit. Two years ago I would have told you there was no area I could cut but it turns out that wearing a sweater in the house isn’t that bad and I’ve made new use of the libary instead of Barnes and Noble. I’ve survived with one starbucks a week instead of daily mochas. So now I’m asking PWC to do the same and tighten up so we don’t lose all business in this county.

  21. Moon-howler

    Anona, I agree with much of what you have said. I am mainly concerned about advertising a rate that cannot be increased if the need arises.

    i think you are right about the waste in government. The ‘use it or lose it’ mentality has been around too long. And our supervisors going to the Homestead seems a bit excessive. There are cheaper places for conferences that wouldn’t be considered slumming. No one needs an office do-over. Live with it.

    On the other hand, I remain concerned about public safety because promises were made that haven’t been kept. Our crime rates have been going down over the past 5 years. We have more officers. We are getting more and more urban type crime. We are also getting the type crime that pulls in many more officers than your run of the mill auto theft or burglary that requires 2 officers. Some of our more notorious crimes in the past year have involved many officers and a great deal of overtime. Having to work this type of crime shorts other areas, costs a lot, and creates exhausted LEOs.

    I worry about class overcrowding and having teachers go to other localities that pay better. Remember that PWC pays less than all its neighbors including MP. It is important to attract and KEEP good teachers.

    I say set the tax rate at $1.29 and leave some wiggle room. I trust John Jenkins on that budget more than the other 7 put together. He tried to tell John Stirrup and Corey where it had to be set a year ago and no one would listen to him.

    Somewhere I read (this am I think) that someone wants $1.21 because $1.19 just won’t cut it. Until they know their base, they have to allow wiggle room.

  22. Chris

    Point of order, point of order!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWDnYco2gnY

    John Jenkins told them in Sept.07 there needed to be a higher rate set due to the decrease in assessments. The assessments will drop again this year due to the recent low sales prices of some of these “gems” that have been destroyed by the former occupants.

    I think people are forgetting this is an ADVERTISED tax rate, and not a set tax rate. I’m with Moon-howler when it comes to John Jenkins and the budget. John Jenkins has sat on the board for 26 years.

    Anona,
    I agree, we’ve all had to make changes. I’m clipping coupons left and right. I’m also, enjoyed the doubling and trippling of coupons at our local grocery stores.In fact I don’t spend one red cent outside of PWC.

  23. Moon-howler

    Everyone needs to watch that video, Chris. Thanks for locating it. This one 5 minute and 14 second video encapsulates why I am still furious over these 2 bullies: Stewart and Stirrup. They wanted what they wanted and did not listen to others who knew more than they did. They sold us all out and put words in people’s mouth.

    Where are all these people shown in the video who are willing to pay ‘whatever it costs?’ Bet they won’t pony up now.

    They all should have listened to Caddigan and Jenkins.

    Who was that nut case woman who spoke?

  24. Lucky Duck

    Anon, if you review the documents from the County, you’ll see that Prince William was obligated under an intercounty agreement from 1986 that obligated them to pay, at first, 17% of the cost of the training track and several years later it was amended to 37% of the cost (because of the expansion of Prince William’s force and the fact that their use would increase because of that)in the early part of this decade. So those financial obligations were signed, sealed and delivered over eight years ago. It took several years of environmental studies, historical reviews, track designs (which were scaled back) and preliminary site work to get to point where actual construction will be done.

    The County was obligated to other jurisdictions to pay its portion based upon compacts signed over 23 years ago.

  25. ShellyB

    $260,952.38 drop in home value to create a tax break???? No thanks.

    Corey Stewart, just keep your mouth shut. Every time you brag about one of your failures, someone comes along to point out that you shouldn’t brag about failures.

  26. anona

    The $500+ savings number doesn’t come from Stewart, that figure is calculated by the finance office in the budget process.

    The calculations regarding tax rates are off. Here is how they figure it:

    Average home value last year $375,000, tax rate was .98 so the average owner paid $3675.

    If value drops this year by 30% (less $112,500), making the home value $262,500, then at a rate of 1.19 they would pay $3123, thus saving the homeowner $552.

    If you lived on acreage, your taxes would stay the same with little to no savings because land didn’t go down like home values did.

    If you owned a business, you would not save at all because commercial land didn’t decrease either, but would instead be looking at a tax increase of about 6%.

    The finance office should have a very good idea of what the values are going to come in at and should provide that feedback at the board meeting. If they foresee the values dropping more than 30%, they will tell the board. Maybe that is why the staff was quoting a 1.21 rate which would mean the average drop was 31-32% instead of 30%.

    To look at the flip side, let’s say they set the rate high at 1.29 and waited to see what the values dropped to. That wouldn’t mean any more money for programs because they’d set the rate to achieve that dollar figure. So a rate of 1.19 with a 30% value drop gets us the exact same revenue as a rate of 1.21 with a 31% drop. The same amount of income means the same cuts will be need to be made.

    The only way to get more money is set the rate higher DESPITE what happens with the values. So what if they set it at 1.50 for example so we can keep everything we currently have and the homeowner would pay $262 more for a total of $3937. At first that doesn’t seem like much. But remember the businesses that would see an increase of 6% with the 1.19 rate,, at 1.50, they see an incredible increase during very bad times.

    Then you have the future problem. If they set the rate at 1.50, and many businesses leave or close. Then the market recovers in 5 years and home values go back up 20%. That home is now worth $315,000 ($262,500 plus 52,500 value increase) and with a rate of 1.50, the taxes paid for that house go up $1100 to $4725. But wait a minute you might say, then the BOCS could go back down on the rate. Really? Can you see them dropping the rate 25 cents or 50 cents? Not likely, because as the values went back up, it didn’t happen in one year. Each year of the recovery, the values went up a little and the county had a little more revenue from each homeowner. So they spent it, which is what government does, by creating more programs. By the time it goes up the full 20%, the programs are there and have to be sustained. And we have run out the businesses and stopped new businesses from moving in due to the high rate so we are completely and totally dependent on residential rates to bring in the money.

    There are so many factors to consider that I do not envy the BOCS this week. They have to make a tough call either way but I trust that they’ll be able to work it out and do what is best.

  27. I am a low tax / small government person to the core. But in recent times I have seen things that have caused me to think twice before taking a position on ideological grounds alone.

    A year ago, I lost trust in Corey Stewart. He has done little to regain it.

    I prefer the wisdom of Board Members who govern from the middle, such as Mike May, Marty Nohe, John Jenkins, and Maureen Caddigan. I prefer the wisdom of those Board members who have long term investments and long term interests in this county.

    The citizens of Prince William County have been burned, badly, once before by the politicization of the legislative process … rushing ahead to take a polarized position for the purposes of grandstanding and electioneering … only to realize too late it would have been better to proceed cautiously and judiciously with all the information at hand.

    Therefore, although I may ultimately support the lower tax rate for my own economic interests … or for the economic interests of the county … today I put my trust in those Supervisors who have earned it over the years.

    Board Members, please vote for John Jenkins’ advertised tax rate. Your Chairman will have plenty of opportunities to grandstand after the assessed values are known, and, after your constituents have had their say in the budgeting process.

  28. Moon-howler

    @anona
    Actually we have seen tax rates decrease over the years. Now, did the tax bills decrease? No but the rates did. It’s all a juggling act.

    I am going back to your acreage statement–if you lived on acreage your house would still decrease the same amount as though it were on a quarter acre lot, but your land would not.

    $1.295 is the ‘Jenkins support rate.’ That figure gives us the wiggle room needed to go up and down if the assessments change as well as allow vital services to be provided. The cuts made were not done equally across the board.

  29. Alanna

    Thank you anona!

  30. Smith

    Assessment rates are posted on PWC’s website now as of 3 am 3/15/09…my house dropped 30% as predicted. The houses surrounding me also dropped 30% or over $100,000 in value. I think it is important to keep in mind every aspect
    of our lives has changed with the current state of the economy and the tumble Prince William County has taken in the housing market factor in greatly to the current financial state of residents. Unfortunately most of the homes in Bristow were built during the boom and I wonder how many are behind in taxes? If at $1.29 I would still save $500 or so~which would be helpful after last years $500 tax bill increase! I agree we need a better financial plan in PWC. I do not want to see the schools suffer anymore~so much for a world class education with 29 children in a Kindergarten class. I didn’t see Waltz and the school board taking a pay cut or salary freezes? Are there leased fleet of luxury vehicles being returned? I would love to know the status of these two questions.

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