Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors
Thank you for contacting my office for clarification regarding the Board of Supervisors’ action on the tax rate advertisement on March 1. I appreciate the opportunity to explain what happened.
There were three motions made during the discussion regarding the advertisement of a maximum tax rate during the morning portion of our March 1 meeting. The first was made by Supervisor McKay to advertise a maximum rate of $1.14, a $0.05 increase. Before we voted on Supervisor McKay’s motion, Supervisor Dan Storck offered an amendment to advertise a maximum rate of $1.15 (a $0.06 increase). That amendment failed 3-7, with Supervisors Storck, Kathy Smith and John Foust voting in the affirmative. When that motion failed, we returned to Supervisor McKay’s original motion. I pointed out that if the motion to advertise a maximum increase of five cents failed, a member of the Board would be making a motion to advertise a lower rate of $1.13 (four cent maximum increase), as recommended by County Executive Ed Long in his Advertised Budget. Supervisor Jeff McKay’s motion to advertise a maximum rate of $1.14 (a $0.05 increase) failed on a tie 5-5 vote with me and Supervisors McKay, Cathy Hudgins, Penny Gross, and Foust voting in the affirmative. The third motion was made by Sup. Gross to advertise a maximum rate of $1.13 (a $0.04 increase). That motion passed 7-3, with me and Supervisors John Cook, Hudgins, McKay, Gross, Foust and Linda Smyth voting in the affirmative.
Later that evening, Supervisor Foust made the first of what would need to be a series of motions to reconsider the motion on the $0.05 increase. The first motion was to reconsider the successful motion to advertise a maximum rate of $1.13 ($0.04 increase). It failed on a tie 5-5 vote, with Chairman Bulova and Supervisors McKay, Foust, Storck and Kathy Smith voting in the affirmative. This was the final vote of the meeting.
Personally, I am disappointed that a majority of my colleagues did not join me in supporting Supervisor McKay’s proposal of an advertised rate of $1.14. While one cent may not sound significant, each cent results in $23 million in additional revenue. If we had advertised a five cent rate increase, the Board would have been in a better position to consider a school transfer sufficient to meet the School Board’s proposed budget without reductions to county services.
The Commonwealth of Virginia also provides a share of the FCPS budget and I have led a statewide campaign by business leaders and local elected officials to advocate for increased funding for public education. I am pleased to report that both the Senate of Virginia and the Virginia House of Delegates have adopted budgets that would increase funding for public education. Current estimates suggest that FCPS will receive at least $13 million and as much as $17.5 million more than anticipated in Superintendent Garza’s budget and we will continue to advocate for public school funding as the General Assembly and Governor finalize the state budget.
The Board of Supervisors will work on the county budget throughout March and April before “marking up,” or making changes to, the advertised budget, including a school transfer, on April 19. Following this decision, the School Board will be responsible for making decisions about how to allocate school funds received from the County and the General Assembly to specific programs and teacher compensation.
Thanks again for writing to share your concerns. I will keep your comments in mind as we work to develop a budget that reflects the community’s priorities and ensures that Fairfax County remains a great place to live, work and play. I hope you will continue to participate in the upcoming budget process.
Thank you for contacting me to share your reaction to the discussion at the Joint Board of Supervisors-School Board Budget Committee Meeting and your thoughts about the Advertised Tax Rate for FY2017.
With respect to the discussion of the achievement gap, I had a very different impression of the conversation. Dr. Garza made a comment suggesting that there were unfunded needs toward addressing the achievement gap in the budget she proposed (some of which, I believe, you touched on in your message). My understanding of the questions from Supervisor McKay, Supervisor Hudgins and others were about what the priorities for the leadership of the school system are.
The reality of public budgeting is that we work in a resource-constrained environment. It is the responsibility of both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board to be stewards of the public trust and to invest in the community’s priorities. As Dr. Garza’s presentation points out, we have been in a difficult economic cycle for years and both Boards are faced annually with difficult choices. The Board of Supervisors must balance the cost of local taxes to residents against the services – including support for FCPS – those taxes provide. The School Board must decide how to invest resources in programs, whether they are enrichment programs or they are programs intended to better serve students who would otherwise struggle.
Dr. Garza convened a task force of community representatives to evaluate possibilities for further reducing the school budget and many of these same reductions could be considered to address the priorities you outlined if the School Board felt it was in the best interest of students.
I am sorry I was unable to respond to your message before we considered an advertised tax rate. Personally, I am disappointed that a majority of my colleagues did not join me in supporting Supervisor McKay’s proposal of an advertised rate of $1.14. Each cent results in $23 million in additional revenue and I was supportive of advertising the higher rate.
Fairfax County Public Schools remain our top priority and I will work with my colleagues to increase the school transfer for a sixth year in a row. Thanks again for taking the time to write. I will keep your comments in mind as the Board moves toward adopting a budget.
John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor
Monday, March 7, 7:00 p.m.
McLean Governmental Center, Community Room
1437 Balls Hill Road, McLean
Thursday, March 31, 7:00 p.m.
Great Falls Grange
9818 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls
McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean
Wednesday, April 6 at 1:00 p.m.
Penny Gross, Mason District Supervisor (& Vice Chairman)
Thank you for your email message about school funding and the County Executive’s proposed FY2017 budget. On Tuesday, March 1, the Board of Supervisors supported my motion to advertise a tax rate of $1.13. This motion came at the conclusion of a spirited debate about funding both for the schools and the county side of the budget. Here is a brief rundown on the actions at the Board of Supervisors:
Supervisor Jeff McKay, chairman of the Board’s Budget Committee, made a motion to advertise the tax rate at $1.14, or an increase of 5 cents. Mount Vernon Supervisor, and former school board member, Dan Storck offered a substitute motion to advertise $1.15, or an increase of 6 cents. His motion failed on a 3 yeas (Foust, Kathy Smith, Storck), 7 nays (Bulova, Cook, Gross, Herrity, Hudgins, McKay, Linda Smyth) vote. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, Supervisor McKay’s motion then became the main motion, which failed in a 5-5 tie (Bulova, Foust, Gross, Hudgins, McKay voting yea; Cook, Herrity, Kathy Smith, Linda Smyth, Storck voting nay).
Recognizing the significant split on the Board, as well as our imperative to advertise a tax rate as required by law, I made a motion to advertise the County Executive’s recommendation of a four cent increase or $1.13. That motion passed 7 yeas (Bulova, Cook, Foust, Gross, Hudgins, McKay, Linda Smyth) to 3 nays (Herrity, Kathy Smith, Storck). The Board may adopt a tax rate lower than advertised, but cannot adopt a rate higher than advertised. At the end of the day, a nearly unprecedented motion to reconsider the earlier vote on the five cent rate was made by Supervisor Foust. I opposed the motion to reconsider since there was no new information brought forward that might affect the legal basis for the earlier vote, and no one indicated that they had erred in voting for any earlier motion. The motion to reconsider also failed on a 5-5 tie, so the morning vote to approve my motion for four cents is the advertised rate. The Board also approved a motion by Supervisor Hudgins asking for updated information about a potential meals tax referendum which would help diversify sources of revenue available to the county.
The four cent advertisement permits some flexibility in discussion and decision-making by the community and the board, but will restrict severely the ability to provide additional school funding. I am disappointed that new Supervisors (and former school board members) Dan Storck and Kathy Smith declined to support advertising either a four cent or five cent tax rate. A positive vote by either one would have achieved a majority for the higher five cent rate, which could have provided additional funding for our schools. Nonetheless, I am committed to maintaining and providing needed services for all county residents, including our students.
I hope this information is helpful. The Mason District Budget Town Meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale.
Penelope A. Gross
Mason District Supervisor
Pat Herrity, Springfield District Ssupervisor
The budget process kicked off February 16 when the County Executive released his budget. On March 1 the Board authorized the maximum tax rate it can approve for the year. From here, the Board will be holding budget committee meetings and meeting with residents. In early April, the Board will hold public hearings on the budget in order to get input from the community, then hold mark-up sessions and ultimately adopt the FY 2017 budget.
At Tuesday’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board voted 7-3 to advertise a tax rate for FY 2017 that is a 6% increase in taxes for the average homeowner. If approved, the advertised tax rate of 1.13 would represent a 26% tax increase over the last five years. I did not support the motion largely because I believe our residents who have seen their wages stagnate, cannot afford a 6% increase in their taxes much less 26% over the last five years. We are literally chasing our taxpaying residents out of the County.
The largest employer in our region is the federal government. Its employees just got the news that their salary increase will be 1.46% this year, which on average is better than the 3.5% cumulative increase over the past five years. How can we ask our residents to absorb a tax increase of 6% for a cumulative increase of 26% over 5 years? A federal worker making $80,000 would have to use half of his wage increases over the last five years to pay his county tax bill.
Our residents are having to make difficult decisions around their kitchen tables as job and wage growth stagnates. We need to get our economy going and the commercial tax base back up to 25%. Until then, we have to make the same tough choices that our residents are having to make and in the interim, I cannot ask them to absorb a 6% increase this year.
The rate increase should come as no surprise as the County Executive has been forecasting a $75M shortfall since last April. What frustrates me the most is that ten months ago I asked the Board to invest additional time over the summer and fall to address potential efficiencies, restructuring, pensions and other ideas to prevent us from once again having to balance the budget on the backs of our taxpayers and employees. That request was defeated on a 7-3 party line vote. (The Board did, however, find the time to vote to give itself a raise – which I opposed.) Now we have less than two months to address the budget shortfall or our taxpayers will bear the brunt once more. Unfortunately, many of the things that need to be done cannot be addressed in a two-month period.
Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill District Supervisor
I remain committed to all our county residents and to our school system and would like to share the following information.
As you may know, the annual real estate tax is a combination of the January 1 assessed property value and a real estate tax rate determined each year by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
This year Fairfax County property increased 1.2% over last year’s assessed values. In Hunter Mill District, as a whole, property values do better than the county average; our increase was 1.6%.
On March 1 2016, at the General Meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Board voted to advertisea maximum Real Estate Rate of $1.13 per $100 of assessed value of property. This is an increase of $0.04 from the previous year.
As in past budget cycles, the Board of Supervisors tried to set the Real Estate Tax Rate at a level sufficient to fund the service needs of the county, which includes the needs of Fairfax County Public Schools. Before casting my vote on the rate to be advertised, I heavily considered the impact to all the real estate taxpayers. My challenge is how to serve all residents who depend on county services while the impact on the taxpayer.
In the FY2017 budget, the County Executive recommended a 3% increase in the funds transferred to the school system. It was, and remains, my belief that our school system requires additional support, and we must have a serious conversation about those needs, the county’s needs, and the ability of our residents to support our collective needs.
A word of explanation – In this budget, each penny in the Real Estate Tax rate produces approximately $23 million in revenue. Therefore, the Board approved advertised rate of $0.04 higher at $1.13 will raise the average home owner’s tax bill $303.86 over last year’s tax bill.
As a taxpayer and supervisor, I recognize and share concerns regarding the increase to our tax assessment. I hope you share my concern in the limited taxing authority Fairfax County has compared to Virginia’s cities and towns, and the Board of Supervisors inability to diversify our revenue streams. In order to alleviate some of the burden from our home owners, we must minimize overdependence on the Real Estate Tax revenue.
Therefore, at 1 March Board meeting, on my motion, the Board directed county staff to provide the following information regarding
a. An updated report from the 2014 “Meals Tax in Fairfax County Task Force;”
b. A timeline of implementation of the meal tax for the restaurant industry should a meals tax referendum be successful;
c. An explanation of the cost relating to implementation to help the industry prepare for implementation should a meals tax referendum be successful; and
d. An implementation timeline for the Board of Supervisors and steps necessary to be in compliance for a November 8, 2016 voters referendum.
Again, I remain committed to our county residents and to our school system.
Jeff McKay, Lee District Supervisor
Thank you for contacting me with your feedback on the proposed FY17 budget.
Like you, I am disappointed that our Board advertised a tax rate increase of 4 cents. I made a motion to advertise a rate of $1.14, an increase of 5 cents, because I believe this would have given us the flexibility we need to have a good, healthy dialog with our residents while also ensuring we maintain our fiscal responsibilities. I also strongly believe that, when coupled with what we expect to be a sizeable increase in education funding from the state, this tax rate would have allowed us to fully meet the Superintendent’s request, should we have chosen to.
My motion failed on a 5-5 vote.
This is extremely disappointing, especially because the same people who advocated for flexibility voted against flexibility. They’ve boxed in the Board of Supervisors and tied our hands. It’s now highly unlikely we can meet the Superintendent’s request. I supported a rate that was higher than the County Executive’s, a rate that could have fully funded schools, and a rate that could have realistically achieved approval. Unfortunately, some on our Board decided to make political statements instead of casting responsible votes.
Nonetheless, the County Executive’s proposed budget, which was built around a 4-cent tax advertisement, would transfer more than $2 billion to FCPS and provide over 52 percent of County General Fund revenues to the School System. This will be the sixth straight year the County has increased funds for FCPS. An additional $84 million in school related expenditures (School Nurses, School Age Child Care, After School Middle School programs, School Resource Officers, etc.) will also be funded out of the General County side of the budget.
Under the Constitution of Virginia, the School Board, not the Board of Supervisors, has authority over line-item priorities for our school system, including teacher compensation and school programs.
There are many opportunities for you to share comments and concerns regarding the County budget in the weeks and months ahead. In addition to budget town meetings and forums throughout the County, three days of budget public hearings will be held at the Fairfax County Government Center on April 5-7.
Formal adoption of the FY17 Budget is scheduled for April 26.
Also, for your awareness, our Board also asked for more information about putting a meals tax on the ballot this November. Our legislative package has long supported diversifying the tax base and taking some of the burdens off our homeowners. Under state law, if the Board wishes to adopt a meals tax, the voters must decide in the form of a referendum. More information on that should be available soon.
Jeffrey C. McKay
Lee District Supervisor