It took Prince William County Supervisors more than four hours Tuesday to settle on a fiscal 2019 budget that includes a 1 percent increase to the county’s fire levy rate and no change to the real estate tax rate of $1.125 per $100 of assessed value.
The $3.1 billion budget includes approximately $578.8 million to fully fund the county’s public schools, more than $360 million in public-safety needs and funding for an adult detention center.
As property values increase, however, the rates are expected to raise tax bills on average by around $132 next year.
The fire levy was adopted at 0.08, up from 0.0792 per $100 of assessed value. It amounts to an average levy bill increase of 4.1 percent while eliminating five shift supervisors. The board vote was 5-3, with Supervisors Pete Candland, R-Gainesville; Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge; and its Republican Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart casting the dissenting votes.
The vote on the levy followed disagreement over the levy rate and whether or not to wait on career and volunteer fire staff to come to a consensus on recommendations for its staffing plan.
“I certainly don’t want to sit up here and micromanage a fire system,” said Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, who motioned for the adopted rate. “What I’m trying to do is find a compromise.”
A 6-2 vote on levies including real-estate property tax, personal property tax and relief, BPOL tax, motor vehicle license tax, special district and parks and recreation fees to support the Fiscal 2019 all-funds budget was approved, with supervisors Stewart and John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, casting the dissenting votes.
Citizens spoke out for teachers and public-safety personnel before the vote, which followed a detailed budget plan laid out at its April 17 meeting. They asked for fair compensation and attention to fire and emergency service needs, police recruitment problems and retention issues.
One speaker said that every year, there’s a shortfall in the budget and numerous needs to be met, along with things like educator salaries being pitted against infrastructure.
The board weighed its options surrounding ladder truck and staff needs with respect to finding enough savings within the budget.
After repeated competing motions, board members considered deferring the budget. Although members would have had until May 15 to provide budget money to the schools, they determined that many of the budget pieces are interwoven and a decision should be made sooner rather than later.
The fiscal 2019 budget, which takes effect July 1, is based on a general revenue split of more than 57 percent to the schools and nearly 43 percent to the county. It also includes funding for capital improvement projects such as a jail expansion, building and facility maintenance, a county website redevelopment, human services and community development.
Also included is 2.7 percent step increases funded by the county and no cost of living allowance increase, and $400,000 toward a phase 2 police officers program.
It also includes $200,000 for a Cloverdale Park parking expansion; $650,000 for an auxiliary (concessions restroom) building at Long Park; and $100,000 to address a waitlist for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities clients.
Within the budget is funding for pay raises for public safety personnel, along with $3.1 million for pay compression in professions where workers with more experience or rank make less than lower ranked or less experienced workers.
It also includes $350,000 for the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center on George Mason University’s Manassas campus, a decrease from last year.
The budget also covers 3-percent raises for county employees.
The board also discussed a property tax rate on programmable computer equipment and kept it level instead of tripling it, as Stewart previously proposed.
Also at the meeting, the supervisors:
- learned that the county has been given a AAA bond rating.
- unanimously confirmed its commitment to implement phase two of its public safety retention and recruitment study for career firefighters as part of the Fiscal 2020 budget. The study includes a potential 56-hour work week.
- approved Fiscal 2018 contingency funds for a Neabsco Creek dredging ($750,000) based on it being too shallow and Harbor Drive Park projects ($700,000).