Loudoun County Supervisors Pass Budget, Tax Rate

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Loudoun County taxpayers will see a 10 1/2 -cent increase in their property tax rate this year and reduced services at schools, libraries and other agencies under a budget approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

Faced with a sharp drop in property tax revenue because of plummeting home values, the board eliminated dozens of county jobs and passed a budget for fiscal 2010 that is about $200 million less than the current spending plan of roughly $1.6 billion.

Despite the higher rate, the average residential tax bill will be nearly 6 percent lower than last year's.

"Striking a balance between providing core services and dealing with tax bill increases has been a tall order," said Supervisor Sally R. Kurtz (D-Catoctin), adding that the board focused on "sound fiscal principles in the long term."

The new Loudoun tax rate of $1.245 per $100 of assessed value is the highest of any Northern Virginia county. Prince William County officials recently approved a tax rate of $1.212, although that figure does not include a 7-cent tax for fire and rescue services.

Because of the steep fall in the assessed value of homes, the average residential tax bill in Loudoun will drop by $279 even with the higher tax rate, according to the county assessor's figures, the first such drop since 1995. The average residential assessment for 2009 is 13.7 percent lower than last year.

The board approved the budget by a vote of 6 to 3, with Vice Chairman Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run) and Supervisors Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run) in opposition.

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

Of the 86 county positions being eliminated, 33 are currently filled. Among the most notable casualties in the budget the supervisors approved:

-- The school system will get $762 million in local tax funding, $34 million less than in the current fiscal year. The reduction could trigger increases in student athletic and parking fees; cuts in spending on buses for after-school activities and field trips; changes to the school district's health-care plans, including increases in employee co-pays and deductibles; and a decrease in part-time and overtime salaries.

The School Board will decide next week whether to approve those measures or find other reductions in spending.

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