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Citing as they often do each year the need for wiggle room, a majority of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on March 9 agreed to advertise a maximum real-estate-tax rate of $1.15 per $100 assessed value for fiscal 2022, one penny higher than the proposal from County Executive Bryan Hill and, if enacted, sending homeowners’ tax bills even higher.

Given the array of unknowns facing the county, the higher advertised rate will give supervisors “the flexibility to pass the best budget that we can, that recognizes the financial constraints many people in our community are feeling, but also the need for essential county services in the midst of a pandemic,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).

Supervisors approved the advertised rate on a 9-1 party-line vote. Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield), the board’s lone Republican, voted against the proposal, saying average county tax bills had risen an unacceptable and unsustainable 45% in the last decade.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic and I think we should be doing what our struggling residents are doing and that’s finding ways to work within our means and keep the tax bill for our average resident flat,” Herrity said.

Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill) disagreed and said he was hoping for even more budgetary flexibility than the proposed $1.15 rate would provide. The budget process shows the county needs major tax reforms at the state level, including for educational funding, he said.

“Certainly, Virginia’s tax structure is based on the same as what it was in Mr. Jefferson’s time, 1742,” chimed in Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason). Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D) said his constituents had been socked with the county’s highest assessment increases (an average of 6.32%), and that this was due in part to the district’s comparatively inexpensive housing stock, which has seen a lot of bidding wars between buyers recently.

McKay, who represented Lee District before being elected chairman in November 2019, sympathized with those residents.

“In this particular year, the perfect worst storm has happened,” McKay said. “A tax increase would most disproportionately fall on the lowest-income [residents] in the county, more so than any year I’ve seen before.”

The advertised rate, which matches the current amount charged to county property owners, is the highest supervisors will be able to charge when they approve the budget. They have the option of setting a lower rate, if desired.

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed fiscal 2022 budget recommends a 1-cent cut in the tax rate, which still would charge the average residential property owner $224 more because of higher assessments.

“We know when we discuss ‘average,’ a whole lot of people will be paying a whole lot more than that,” McKay said.

The draft tax resolution advertised by supervisors also would increase the charge for refuse-collection services from $370 per household unit to $400. In addition, the county will advertise base-charge increases to the sewer rate, which would go from $32.91 per quarter ($131.64 per year) to $36.54 per quarter ($146.16 per year).

The sewer-service charge would rise from $7.28 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption to $7.72 and the sewer-availability fee for new homes being constructed would increase from $8,340 to $8,507.

Supervisors will hold public hearings on the fiscal 2022 budget April 13 through 15 and are slated to adopt budget May 4. The board also will hold separate public hearing April 13 on the proposed sewer-rate revisions and effective tax rate.

The new budget will take effect July 1. Real-estate tax bills are paid in two equal installments each year.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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