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County residents call for property taxes to be lowered with new budget

When Centreville resident Jim Church received his property assessment, he saw a 14.5% increase, which he calculated would amount to $1,100.

Other residents shared similar concerns yesterday (Tuesday) at the first of three scheduled public hearings on Fairfax County’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1.

Several speakers called on the Board of Supervisors to reduce the property tax rate from its advertised rate of $1.14 per $100 of assessed property value. If the board keeps the rate the same, the average tax bill would increase by $666, according to a Fairfax County projection.

“Something is wrong,” one resident said about the property assessment increases coming amid food and gas price increases. “There should be a cap on how much a yearly increase can be.”

The county is analyzing whether to make adjustments and how to do so in its proposed $4.8 billion budget, about half of which goes to schools.

“This budget maintains an investment in teacher pay increases, broadening opportunity and access for all students, and additional support to address critical education gaps that have widened during the pandemic,” Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky said at the budget hearing.

In its advertised budget, Fairfax County Public Schools’ budget projects a spending decrease of 2.3%, thanks to Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds from federal coronavirus aid packages.

FCPS has a total allocation of $272.6 million in one-time ESSER II and ESSER III funds, starting in March 13, 2020 through June 30, 2024.

Several people affiliated with Fairfax County Taxpayers’ Alliance called for a 10-cent decrease in the proposed property tax rate. The group’s president, Arthur Purves, called anything less than that a hidden tax increase.

“The board can and should reduce the tax rate 10 cents,” he said.

Fairfax County staff have stated that a 8.17-cent decrease would generate the same amount of revenue from property taxes in fiscal year 2022 versus 2023.

If the county maintains a flat property tax rate, revenue is slated to increase by nearly $310 million, or 6.8%, to $4.8 billion.

The advertised budget, which was presented by County Executive Bryan Hill in February, includes $79.26 million in unallocated funds that could be used at the county board’s discretion. An additional $83 million has been identified based on increases in vehicle assessment, according to the county.

The board has been evaluating options for tax relief to vehicle owners. The average vehicle tax bill could rise from $229 to $415, based on soaring used-car prices amid a sellers’ market.

While taxes were a central focus of yesterday’s hearing, speakers advocated for other issues as well, from funding for parks and libraries to one group of residents that called for reducing funding to the police.

Another budget hearing started at 3 p.m. today (Wednesday), and a final day for the public to comment starts at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday). The record will remain open for written comments through April 26.

The Board of Supervisors will mark up the advertised budget on April 26 ahead of a vote to adopt the final package on May 10.

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