The results of the state's last-minute budget compromise on Fairfax County have not been fully calculated yet, but some members of the Board of Supervisors said it appears they may now be able to further lower the real estate tax rate.
"Chances are that we ought to be able to find additional revenues to further reduce the tax rate -- even if it's not a full penny," said Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock), chairman of the board's Budget Committee.
Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) agreed but said that most of the state budget effects won't be felt until next year. By then, the board will be putting together its spending plan for fiscal 2006.
"Primarily what this does is provide some greater tax rate reduction next year," Connolly said.
He cautioned against lowering the tax rate further in the upcoming budget year, given the uncertainty about the state budget's impact and late timing. The 2005 fiscal year starts July 1.
"My goal is steady relief for homeowners that is sustainable," he said.
The board last month provisionally adopted a tax rate of $1.13 for each $100 of assessed value, pending a resolution of the state's prolonged budget stalemate. That rate would boost the average tax bill by $313 a year because of rising property values.
With the General Assembly approving a budget last week, board members said it appears that they can set a tax rate of $1.13 or lower.
The state appears to have provided more money to Fairfax than county officials had assumed in developing the $1.13 tax rate.
"It appears that there are additional revenues beyond what we had assumed that perhaps could be applied to some additional tax rate reduction," Bulova said.
By law, the board must set a final rate by June 7.
The county relies on the state budget for about a quarter of its revenue, so shifts either way during state budget proceedings can make a significant difference in the rate that Fairfax homeowners must pay in taxes. The state also determines what kind of taxes the county may levy and how much those taxes may be.
Of the county's $2.7 billion budget, about $678 million comes from the state, Bulova said, and of that, $333 million is earmarked for schools.
For the owner of a house valued at $357,506 -- the projected county average -- the tax bill under the $1.13 rate is $4,040 a year.
A one-cent drop in the rate would represent a savings of about $36 annually.
"If it's at all possible, we should reduce the tax rate," said T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee.) "My only question is whether some of the money can be put into transportation projects that have dropped off the state agenda."