The Board of County Supervisors now hopes to set the real estate tax rate for Prince William County at $1.16 per $100 of assessed value, rather than the previously announced $1.19. That's a step in the right direction, but it still represents an average tax increase of 9.3 percent over last year. That's $218 more in taxes (on average) per homeowner.
That's on top of last year's double-digit increase of 12.2 percent. In fact, if the tax rate is set at $1.16, the average Prince William County homeowner will see a tax increase of more than 37 percent -- $693 -- just since 1999.
Some blame the real estate assessor. Others tell taxpayers to be happy their homes are increasing in value.
Don't be fooled. By state law, the tax rate will drop to the rate that would generate 101 percent of the revenues that came in last year unless the Board of County Supervisors votes to increase taxes. According to the county, that rate would be $1.072.
I'm sure most of us are glad our homes are increasing in value. But that increase doesn't give us added funds to pay higher taxes.
The Prince William Taxpayers Alliance is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fighting higher taxes. We are asking all candidates for the Board of County Supervisors to sign a "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" stating they will oppose any tax rate that would result in an increase in total tax revenues higher than the increase in inflation plus the increase in population growth or 5 percent, whichever is higher. This year, that would result in a tax rate of $1.10 (based on available data).
This is very reasonable. We're not asking to roll back the tax increases of the past several years. We're just asking that we limit future tax increases. And we're allowing for increased taxes due to inflation and population growth.
We urge Prince William County taxpayers to contact their supervisors and urge them to hold the line on taxes by voting for a tax rate of $1.10. And ask all those running for election to the board this fall to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge so that voters will know which candidates have pledged to hold the line on future tax increases.
Improving the Landfill
I visited the Prince William County landfill last Wednesday and found to my delight that the long-awaited new citizens landfill section was open.
As those who use the landfill know, this area has been in the building stages for several years. The former citizens area was cramped and dirty, with a poorly designed traffic pattern and widely scattered areas where one would take paper, plastic, bottles, batteries and the like. Exiting the area required traveling the muddy area used by the trash haulers and dodging other heavy equipment.
My expectations were that the county had designed a smoothly engineered loop road where all types of trash could be dropped off easily. This is not exactly what we have. Yes, there are areas for metal, tires and household trash. Areas for the "too good to waste place" and for items such as oil, batteries and other hazardous waste will be added.
So what is the glaring omission? The recyclable area has been moved to the former location where one dropped household trash! I queried the landfill manager, Mr. Al-Haj, and the solid waste supervisor, Mr. Smith.
Apparently the plans for the new site deliberately did not include any provision for the recyclables that we are supposed to separate. Mr. Smith cited concern for keeping the heavy trucks that collect the recyclables out of the citizens drop area. Landfill folks, you are making this too difficult. The result will simply be recyclable material is dropped with regular trash.
I question why our engineers could not have solved this problem.
Seemingly, we have almost the same crazy-quilt traffic pattern as before. (Designed by the same person who brought us the traffic pattern at the Dale City post office?)
The landfill is now entirely funded by a $70-per-year charge that property owners have paid on their taxes for the last four years. I was strongly in favor of this tax, because it ensured that the landfill could be self-sufficient and that we would not have to rely on trash haulers from other jurisdictions using our landfill. The new drop-off area has been completed at a cost of $1.2 million.
There must be cogent reasons the new citizens area does not include provision for recyclables. Surely the citizens advisory board for the landfill can explain what otherwise makes no sense.
G. E. MacDonald
County Can't Afford Raises
I would like to respond to a letter in the March 16 Prince William Forum.
In my opinion, Keith Kessler is correct in many of his points. We citizens need to get more involved and hold the Board of County Supervisors accountable for their actions or inactions. To lead by example, as Mr. Kessler put it. But this is where my agreement with his opinion ends.
First, it is my understanding that Prince William County is the highest-taxed county in Virginia. The citizens pay and pay again for essential services more than any other in the state. If this is correct, then shame on the Board of County Supervisors.
As far as paying more to police and firefighters, I would say no. I understand that there is no shortage, whatsoever, of very qualified applicants. These applicants include Virginia state troopers, other jurisdictions' police and many from out-of-state. I have no hard data on firefighters, but I'm sure it is approximately the same situation.
People do not work for money alone. They look at the leadership, working conditions and the opportunity for training and advancement, to mention a few items. Most sophisticated job seekers look at the entire employment package, not just the money.
If you have an abundance of anything, its value is somewhat diminished. If you have an abundance of qualified applicants seeking a given job, then why would you even consider burdening the already very overtaxed Prince William County citizen with paying more money?