Xem thêm

Prince William Leaders Project Higher Tax Bills Despite Surplus and Revenue Increase

CEO Khai Intela
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently held a public hearing on a proposed tax increase. Despite a surplus of $10 million and a revenue increase of $34 million, leaders in Prince William are...

Prince William leaders project higher tax bills despite $10 million surplus, $34 million revenue increase

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently held a public hearing on a proposed tax increase. Despite a surplus of $10 million and a revenue increase of $34 million, leaders in Prince William are projecting higher tax bills for residents. This decision has sparked concerns among homeowners who are already struggling to afford the cost of living in the county.

The Impact of Increased Property Values

County Executive Christopher Shorter initially proposed a lower tax rate of .966 cents on every $100 of assessed home value, compared to the current rate of $1.03. However, due to increased property values, homeowners will end up paying more in real estate taxes. On average, homeowners could see a $72 increase in their tax bills, with an average total of $4,905 per year.

While some residents are relieved to see a slight decrease in the tax rate, they are still worried about the overall impact on their finances. Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Franklin expressed her hope that residents are paying attention to these changes.

Calls for Investment in Public Programs and Public Safety

During the public hearing, community members voiced their concerns and suggestions for how the county should allocate its budget. Many advocated for more funding for robotics programs in public schools, the hiring of additional police officers, and lower taxes to make living in Prince William County more affordable for seniors.

One resident highlighted the financial difficulties faced by seniors, stating that the only way their parents could afford to live in the county is by sharing a home with them. Another speaker drew attention to the shortage of police officers, mentioning that the county is 363 officers short of the number recommended by its comprehensive plan. The increase in violent crime over the past few years has alarmed residents and raised concerns about public safety.

Budget Priorities and Funding Allocation

The 2024 budget, set to take effect on July 1, aims to fund salary increases for public safety personnel in the sheriff's office, fire and rescue, and jail. Last year, police officers received a 17% pay hike, bringing the annual starting pay for new officers to $62,000.

One of the key drivers of the budget is the establishment of a new crisis receiving center, which will provide support to individuals with mental health needs. This center will be located in a former Gander Mountain store next to Potomac Mills mall in Woodbridge and will require an annual operating cost of approximately $3.8 million, with $2.1 million coming from the state.

In addition to public safety initiatives, supervisors have also expressed their desired budget priorities. These include allocating $500,000 for landscaping projects across the county and investing half a million dollars in a new community events department. The latter aims to organize various community events such as the popular boardwalk lights show at the Neabsco Boardwalk in Woodbridge and Friday evening community parties at the government center.

Supervisors also discussed the possibility of engaging with private businesses to produce community events. However, there is no official agreement or arrangement in place yet. Some supervisors expressed concerns about the potential competition with private businesses and suggested developing a protocol to limit the number of events held in each district.

The Importance of Tourism and Infrastructure

Board Chair At-large Ann Wheeler highlighted the positive impact of community events on tourism, mentioning that the boardwalk lights event attracted tourists to the area. Potomac District Supervisor Andrea Bailey proposed allocating $150,000 to develop a new tourism master plan to further promote the county as a tourist destination. This plan is intended to complement the work done by the county's existing tourism office.

Another significant investment in the budget includes a $2.5 million plan to dredge Quantico Creek in Dumfries. This project aims to maintain the waterway's accessibility for boaters and enhance the safety of the area.

Impact on Local Schools and Tax Revenues

The higher tax bills will result in an additional $13.4 million being allocated to the county schools, increasing the annual budget to $1.5 billion. Prince William County is one of the few jurisdictions in the state that automatically allocates more than half of its local government budget to public schools.

Despite concerns about increased tax bills, the county is expected to have a budget surplus of $10.4 million. This surplus is attributed to the introduction of a meals tax last year, which generated approximately $35 million, exceeding initial projections by $11 million.

Overall tax revenues have seen a significant increase of $34 million, primarily driven by a 19% increase in industrial tax revenue and a 15% increase in data center tax revenue. Personal property taxes have also contributed to this revenue growth, with used cars appreciating in value over the past year.

Conclusion

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors faces the challenging task of addressing the community's needs while maintaining fiscal responsibility. Despite a surplus and revenue increase, the decision to project higher tax bills has caused concern among homeowners. The upcoming budget markup session on April 18 will determine which funding items will be included in the final budget. If approved, this will mark the third consecutive year of real estate tax bill increases for county residents.

1