Loudoun Supervisors Approve Budget and Hike in Tax Rate

SOURCE: | By Mary KateCannistra - The Washington Post - April 8, 2009
By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Loudoun County officials approved a $1.4 billion budget yesterday after eliminating 86 jobs, slashing $26 million from the school system, and reducing services at libraries, animal shelters and fire stations.

The Board of Supervisors also approved a 10 1/2 -cent increase in the property tax rate to help offset a $176 million budget shortfall. The new tax rate of $1.245 for every $100 of assessed value is the highest of any Northern Virginia county.

"We do live in a growing county, and we do need to continue to provide core services to our community," said Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg).

Despite the tax increase, the average residential tax bill will drop by $279 because of the decline in the housing market and plummeting residential property assessments, according to the county assessor's figures. That's the first decrease since 1995. The average residential home assessment for 2009 is 13.7 percent lower than last year's figure.

To spare residents from a more substantial tax increase, county officials cut the school system's budget by about $26 million in local tax funding. Loudoun's school system, which with 57,000 students is the fifth largest in the state, makes up nearly 75 percent of the county's budget. The School Board will decide next week whether to approve those additional cuts or find other reductions in spending.

Despite the cuts, the Loudoun County Republican Committee and the nonprofit Loudoun Taxpayers for Accountable Government spoke out publicly against the higher tax rate, calling it fiscally irresponsible. Both Republican supervisors on the Loudoun board called for the county to cut spending further or risk overwhelming cash-strapped taxpayers whose homes fared better than the average assessment.

"There is no average taxpayer here. It is my opinion that this is not the right decision in this economic time," said Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run). "We do have a record number of foreclosures in this county, and I don't want to add to their burden."

The fiscal 2010 budget passed by a vote of 6 to 3, with Vice Chairman Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run) and Supervisors Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Waters in opposition.

With the vote came a warning for next year. "It's only going to get worse, so be prepared," said Chairman Scott K. York (I).

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