Corey Stewart

Saying Prince William County residents are more concerned about overcrowded classrooms than their annual real-estate taxes, Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart proposed a change in local tax policy Tuesday that would focus more on raising needed revenue for schools and county services and less on capping tax hikes.

Stewart, R-At Large, floated the idea during a joint meeting of the county Board of Supervisors and School Board held at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center.

Pointing to the recent two-year county survey, as well as a separate survey his campaign conducted for political purposes, Stewart said increasing traffic congestion and school overcrowding are more immediate concerns for many residents than taxes.

“Regardless of your political stripes, people are more concerned about their quality of life at home than they are about keeping tax bills so low, I mean 30 percent lower than in Fairfax and Loudoun counties,” Stewart said. “There’s a price we are paying for that.”

The discussion, held in advance of upcoming annual spring budget talks, focused on tax policy as well as Stone Haven – a proposed residential development on the county’s west end that promises to bring a $24 million proffered site for the county’s 13th high school.

The controversial 1,650-home development, located near Jiffy Lube Live, has been put on hold until after the Dec. 23 special election that will pick a replacement for former Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington, who resigned in September.

Stone Haven has prompted widespread concern among western county residents that the development will only exacerbate traffic congestion and school overcrowding.

But in response to questions from Stewart about the need for the new high school, Superintendent Steven Walts said the school division needs a 13th high school -- whether Stone Haven is ultimately approved or not.

Walts said nearby high schools – including Battlefield and Patriot -- will be about 1,500 students over capacity by 2019, the planned opening date for the new high school, even without estimated 300 high school students projected from Stonehaven.

“To somehow imply that by not doing Stone Haven our number problems are going to go away is just not factually based,” Walts said. “We need that high school to relieve overcrowding as its primary reason.”

Regarding real-estate tax policy, Stewart explained that supervisors have begun their annual budget discussions in recent years by voting first on a “tax guidance policy” for the coming fiscal year.

 That vote, usually in December, effectively caps the largest source of county revenue – real-estate tax receipts – by dictating a ceiling on the average bill.

The problem with the policy, Stewart said, is that if often results in schools getting less revenue than projected under the county’s five-year budget plan.

In the past few years, supervisors have agreed to “out year” tax-bill increases of about 4 percent but rarely stick to that goal in response to political pressure to push taxes as low as possible, Stewart said.

For Prince William County Schools, which last year received 57.23 percent of county tax money under the long-standing revenue-sharing agreement, those decisions have typically meant cuts in proposed school revenue in the millions. As a result, efforts to lower class sizes and raise teacher pay – two long-stated priorities of the school board – have been largely impossible because of constrained revenue growth.

“In my view, this is the problem,” Stewart said. “To focus on a tax-bill growth policy… is not serving the county or the schools at all.”

Still, when Stewart effectively asked school board members for their political support of the change – saying it wouldn’t likely happen unless they publicly requested it – several school board members balked, including left-leaning Lillie Jessie (Occoquan) and right-leaning Vice Chairman Gil Trenum (Brentsville), who led the meeting in School Board Chairman Milt Johns’ absence.

Jessie said the school board would need more specific numbers about how a change in tax policy would affect school revenues.

Trenum said more consistent revenue projections would be appreciated but stopped short of saying he’d support real-estate tax increases to get them.

“I say that because there might be other ways to do that,” Trenum said, noting in an interview after the meeting that supervisors could increase the schools’ portion of the revenue-sharing agreement to ensure actual revenue for schools is more consistent with projections.

“If we’re going to talk about being flexible, we should talk about being flexible with that,” Trenum said.

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(10) comments

800-pound gorilla


Now now. Let’s all head over to RTJ play a round of golf and discuss this calmly[beam]

Storm

Time for Corey Stewart to go away and definitely not to the position of Lt. Governor or in another political position. Just another politician wanting to increase taxes so they can waste more of our money. Tired of being taxed and the reason so many of our forefathers came to this country from England, Ireland, Scotland and other countries.

411Catharpin

In the end tax payer may be on the hook to pay for things THEY desire, not what any elected Supervisor wants. But the taxpayer is the "go to" person when all other options have failed.
If anyone wants to compare tax rates to other counties then all other comparisons are fair game, for example...how do PWC proffers compare to Fairfax and where do those proffers go? (hint: PWC proffers are silly low compared to other counties)
Here's an idea, jack up the silly low proffer rate and put that money in a lock box for education and transportation...only. Not only will the money be there but developer fiends of the Chairman won't build as many homes so there wont be as many kids moving into the PWC demanding (and rightly so) a good education.
Affecting the pocketbooks of the developer community and their henchmen is a tough road since so many of "them" are politically active and make significant political donations to the Chairman.
In the end, we may have to see a higher rate but that my friends is a last resort and not the first line of defense...developers (and their kind) please more to the front of the line instead of hiding behind your PAC money.
PWC has some of the best politicians money can buy...we should be so proud.

TrGarcia75

I agree with EdP. I would pay more taxes if it makes our schools more attractive, our police force strong, and easy access to good hospitals... because these all keep the value of my home. And I also agree that not with these bozos in charge. They gave a budget to the schools in May and recently took millions of dollars back from schools, who are now struggling to even provide paper and staples and keep their staff (meaning letting go of employees).

InsideNova needs to investigate what they are doing with the money they are taking back!!!

Trentham

RINO.

bugmenot

So this guys approves the building of THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of new homes that do not have the schools or the roads to support them against the wishes of 99% of residents of Prince William County.

Then he thinks that he can ram down our throats another new tax increase??? Are you kidding me!!! What planet does this joke live on???

Can InsideNova PLEASE do a in-depth story on how much money he has taken from his developer friends since he has come to office?

EdP

I'm all for adequately funding the schools so they are not overcrowded and the teachers are properly compensated but not with Walts/Johns in charge. They have no fiscal self-control and are not spending the limited dollars they have on the important needs.
They build a top of the line admin center better than any private company can afford and build a state of the art aquatic center in Walts' backyard. The excesses are sickening.

Gainesville Resident

You are 100% correct!!! Walts/Johns have no fiscal self-control. They need a zero based budget. They need to present that to the Board. Also, overcrowding happens because of over development. The BOCS needs to stop paving over every amount of PWC to build houses. We don't need more houses. We really need more businesses and not retail. I dearly hope someone who has a desire for fiscal responsibility runs against Johns for School Board Chairman. Johns needs to go and he needs to take Walts with him.

Paul Miller

Ditto - not another dime nor partial percentage point until we see meaningful turnover in the schools administration and board.

The Owl

I agree. I tried to watch a board meeting in full. It made me sick. The whole bunch of them...Behold the opulence of the Ed Kelly central office building. Ed Kelly would be turning in his grave if he knew about it.
And one more thing - the new empire is majestically adorned in wool suits which let the children, parents, and teachers know that they mean business! Just like our "representatives" in Congress.
I would not trust any of these "patricians" as far as I can throw them.
GRRRRR!!!!

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