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Correction to This Article
An April 19 Metro story about Fairfax County's fiscal 2006 budget misstated some elements of the spending package. The $3 billion budget represents an increase in general fund spending of 5.7 percent. The increase in county funding to schools is 8.2 percent.

Fairfax Adopts $3 Billion Budget

Homeowners to Pay $364 More on Average Despite Rate Cut

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; Page B05

Fairfax County homeowners will pay $364 more on average in real estate taxes this year under a $3 billion budget the county board approved yesterday.

The vote was 9 to 1, with the board's seven Democrats and two of three Republicans approving. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) cast the dissenting vote, saying he was unhappy that the board did not do more to offset soaring real estate assessments.

"We managed to find money to do so many things," Frey said. "And they are not small increases. How can we look the public in the eye and say we are wise stewards of your tax dollars?"

The budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 sets a tax rate of $1 per $100 of assessed value, a reduction of 13 cents from the current rate and of 23 cents over the last four years. But even at the lower rate, the owner of a house valued at the county average of $444,766 will pay $4,448 in real estate taxes.

The other supervisors said that they, too, are concerned about rising property taxes. But they stressed that their constituents also have other priorities this year, which include boosting affordable housing and reducing runoff to rivers and streams.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said most of the 580 letters, e-mails and phone calls his office received from constituents about the budget urged the board to set aside $18 million to preserve affordable homes and apartments. Second on the list was a lower property tax rate, he said.

The $18 million for storm water management is needed to comply with new federal and state regulations. The housing and storm water spending are intended to be annual expenditures.

The board is scheduled to formally adopt the budget April 25.

Most of the budget's 6.9 percent spending increase will go to the county schools, which will receive $1.4 billion, or 8.4 percent more than they got last year. School officials fought for more money but resolved their differences with the supervisors relatively early in the budget season.

The budget includes new spending for about 150 positions, the majority in public safety; part-time workers to address increased park use; and pay raises, among other increases.

The budget also includes higher fees: Emergency 911 service will jump to $3 per month for each telephone line, up from $2.50; new sewer hookups will rise to $5,874, from $5,621; and county trash collection for 40,000 customers will cost $270 a year, up $30.


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