Chris Shorter

Prince William County Executive Christopher Shorter

Prince William County Executive Chris Shorter proposed major pay increases for county employees and a 5.3-cent real estate tax reduction Tuesday night, all part of his $1.61 billion budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year. 

County supervisors, meanwhile, are eyeing an even bigger real estate tax cut to go along with a tax hike on data centers beyond the increases scheduled through fiscal 2025. 

Shorter’s proposed budget – his first since taking over the county executive role – would provide for market adjustment and step increases for all county employees totaling 9% for general government staffers, 9.8% for fire and rescue and sheriff’s employees and 7.2% for adult detention center employees. Police would see a 3% bump after the board voted in December for a 17.5% raise for police officers to start last month. 

The county’s biggest fiscal 2024 expenditure would be its $787 million allocation to Prince William County Schools, a 10.1% increase from the current fiscal year and about $10 million more than the schools were anticipating when Superintendent LaTanya McDade introduced her proposed budget earlier this month. The county and schools have a longstanding revenue sharing agreement by which schools get 57.23% of the county’s revenue. 

On real estate taxes, the board voted to advertise Shorter’s proposed rate of $0.977 per $100 of assessed value. The board can still decide to set that rate lower upon final adoption of the budget in April, but even with the rate reduction, the average residential bill would increase $49 due to rising assessments.

Data center tax 

Much of Tuesday night’s discussion, though, centered around the business tax rate on computer equipment and other peripherals, which has become known as the “data center tax.” While the tax affects all businesses, its biggest remunerator is the county’s booming data center industry. 

In 2021, the board voted on a schedule of gradual increases that moved the rate from $1.25 in 2019 to $1.65 in the current fiscal year. The plan was for the rate to continue increasing the rate annually until it reached $2 in fiscal 2025.

On Tuesday, though, the board’s three Republicans pushed even bigger increases to the tax as a means of keeping the average residential tax bill flat or even reducing the real estate tax burden on homeowners. Raising the computers tax to $2.12 would be enough to drop the real estate rate to 96.7 cents, keeping the average bill flat for homeowners.

“I think it’s time to talk about increasing it in a more aggressive manner,” Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, who actually voted against the rate increases in 2021, said Tuesday. “Things have changed dramatically and honestly, as much as we might want to set a schedule … elected bodies change, circumstances change, business climates change. Everything is subject to change. So even though we can set a schedule for the next five years, that doesn’t mean it has to be followed.”

Ultimately, the board’s Republicans found some common ground with enough of the Democratic majority to move the advertised computer tax rate – which serves as a ceiling for the ultimate rate – from the proposed $1.80 to $2.15. Board Chair Ann Wheeler was one of three votes against increasing the advertised rate. 

Wheeler said bucking the rate schedule the board adopted less than two years ago would jeopardize the county’s integrity with businesses in the future. 

“It’s the integrity of our economic development people who have to go out and talk to other businesses,” Wheeler said. “I think it’s a little irresponsible to just start throwing around numbers … We had this discussion a few years ago, and we agreed to just give certainty to the industry and raise it every year.”

Pay bumps, staffing

The salary increases included in Shorter’s proposed spending plan are similar to those recommended by a consultant weeks ago as part of the county’s compensation study. To stay competitive with nearby jurisdictions in the region, the consultant said, firefighter pay would need to increase by 6.8%, sheriff's employees would need a 7.8% raise and adult detention center workers would need 4.2%. 

For the most part, the board offered little pushback on the raises, and Shorter said just the fact that he could suggest such dramatic increases was a step in the right direction. 

“These are historic highs. I appreciate that I’m not getting … pushback on even proposing this,” Shorter told the board Tuesday. “So the fact that we are at this point where we could be proposing these kinds of increases for recognizing that our employees have gone without … I’m excited about.”

The budget proposal also includes new hires for plan review and inspection services to be paid for in future development and building fees, two additional transportation department staffers, four full-time workers for the county’s community safety initiative and the final year of planned staffing increases for Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth’s office.

The county would also hire a new energy program manager to implement climate mitigation and resilience goals, as well as 13 new tax administration and procurement employees. Shorter said they’d ultimately pay for themselves. 

“These are 13 new [full-time equivalent positions] … not supported by our general fund but instead supported by new revenue. And so we are projecting that these 13 FTEs will bring in additional revenue due to compliance and better enforcement,” he said.

Though the average real estate tax bill could ultimately be staying flat depending on how the board sets the final rate, several utility fees will likely be increasing in the coming fiscal year. Shorter’s spending plan includes stormwater management fee increases ranging from $2.57 to $3.42 depending on the type of dwelling and solid waste fee increases ranging from $3.19 to $5. The county’s solid waste fee, he said, hasn’t changed since it was adopted in 1998. 

Shorter’s proposal is now the Board of County Supervisors’ to amend and approve. The board will hold three work sessions in March, a public hearing March 21 and a markup session April 18. The budget is scheduled for adoption at the April 25 supervisors meeting.

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at

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Jared Foretek covers Prince William County Public Schools, the city of Manassas and transportation news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at

(14) comments

Bill Wright

There are some golden nuggets in the video from Tuesday night’s Board of County Supervisors meeting. At time 7:48, Chair Wheeler resists raising the computer & peripheral tax rate because of concerns about “the integrity of our economic development people”. Integrity??? Those are the same folks who sign all those non-disclosure agreements to cut secret deals with wealthy corporations behind the backs of our citizens.

The whole premise of the current Board majority is that the aim of increased data center development was to relieve the residential tax burden on homeowners yet, not only has this not happened, you can see the Chair actively opposing what she has promised.

I wrote an opinion piece almost a year ago calling out Chair Wheeler’s hypocrisy and misleading statements on this topic. At that time, I wrote: “Based on what the supervisors are DOING, how can you believe what they are SAYING? If they really mean what they say, supervisors should raise the tax rate on computer peripherals to offset lowering the burden on homeowners.”

Yet Chair Wheeler was one of three supervisors to vote AGAINST raising the computer & peripheral tax rate. Whose side do you figure she’s on?

Youngkinz Constituent


Farmall Super H

The resident idiot Democrats that comment on this forum like facts. 1. The Democrat Party founded the KKK. 2. The majority of Democrats support abortion of viable babies after birth. 3. The resident idiot Democrats believe a biological male with a pecker can be a girl. As such, think of their comments as rejected compost.

John Dutko

LOL, this is too easy.

1)The Confederates were Democrats. Modern Republicans claim Confederate "heritage". Therefore, Modern Republicans= Democrats.

2) Republicans do not support children whatsoever. Pre-natal care has always been voted against and they don't support families (evident to their anti-family leave post birth). And your sentence structure is weird; what you describe is murder.

3) People like you talk one way, but really want "to take a walk on the wild side". And that's ok. No kink-shaming here.

Have a glorious day in your closeted life!

Paul Benedict

John, you are incredibly ignorant. No modern Republican claims confederate heritage. Democrats kill almost half of black babies before they are born fulfilling the dreams of devout racist Margaret Sanger.

Youngkinz Constituent

*eugenicist Sanger.

Plenty of folk, white and black, claim confederate heritage. I don't think any one should "deny" their own lineage.

John Dutko

Damn, you coulda confused me with the amount of Confederate flags on Jan 6th. Or at any CPAC event. Or Any Republican event. Or getting all hot and heavy about the removal of Confederate statues or signs (like why do Republicans care so much if the Democrats own the rights?).

Low-key glad Southern States keep the wages low for their workers so true capitalists can exploit them. Thanks Right to Work!

Ed Pa

Private industry in large companies are giving 3-4%

9% is crazy. This article should lead with tax bills increasing not with the rate decreasing; that's irrelevant.

Paul Benedict

For once we agree Ed.

Dale Dobacki

I'm sorry, but is anyone in the private sector getting these raises? No, they are not. Companies are laying off employees. We need a FLAT budget coupled with homeowner property tax cuts. Schools do NOT need any more $$. They waste what they do get. It's time for accountability. NO on this scam budget.

Rod McSmith

It's almost like people who own private business are greedy and don't care about employee wages, amiright?

Dale Dobacki

No, you're actually uneducated. Most business start ups fail. When Dem policies intwntiinally create scarcity, inflation increases, thereby decreasing wages and increasing business costs. Now, I'm guessing you're sucking off the government teeth, so facts are irrelevant to people like you.

Paul Benedict

Nobody forces anybody to work anywhere. If you don't like what your employer is paying you, go somewhere else.

Youngkinz Constituent

And nobody forces someone to be hired as well, unless you've got a connection. Further, it's not always about the "pay."

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