The Prince William Board of County Supervisors passed its $914.1 million general fund budget for fiscal 2013 on Tuesday, but not before a discussion about a county park that seemed to throw a wrench into what appeared to be a settled matter.
Supervisors had indicated their real estate tax rate preference of $1.209 per $100 of assessed value, and that’s what they supported in a 7 to 1 vote. Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville), who has advocated for a lower rate that would leave county revenue and tax bills essentially flat, voted against the budget.
With the rate at $1.209, the average real estate tax bill will rise $102 to $3,303, according to a county presentation. The total general fund budget will go up 5 percent higher over fiscal 2012’s general fund budget of $868.2 million.
Supervisors also unanimously raised the threshold on the county’s Business, Professional and Occupational License tax, which is assessed on small businesses based on how much money a company takes in. Prince William will now assess the tax on businesses taking in less than $250,000 — previously it was $200,000. The change will cost the county $211,865 next year and exempt 495 businesses.
Supervisors Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge), Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Potomac) and John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) had said they wanted a higher real estate tax rate to give more money to county schools, which have visibly lobbied for more funds this year. But they also said they wouldn’t vote against a budget that had good things in it.
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) had said he would not vote for a budget that produced higher real estate taxes. However, he, too, said the $1.209 rate was the best compromise among board members.
“It is important to compromise,” said Stewart, a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2013. “We have to come together as a board and get things done.”
Candland also tried to seek cuts to move along the construction of Catharpin Park, a $3.4 million Gainesville area park that has been pushed to fiscal 2017.
Candland, a freshman supervisor, said he has “made some mistakes” in the budget process, as other board members have challenged him for specifics on what he would cut to achieve a lower real estate tax rate. But, he said, he was justified to challenge fellow supervisors.
“We will have increased taxes two years in a row in Prince William County,” Candland said.
County officials often mention that Prince William’s tax bills are about 30 percent lower than neighboring Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
Candland offered a variety of places the board could cut — including 911 dispatchers, the number of videos the county produces, funds to community partners and to supervisors own “discretionary funds,” which, he said, total $900,000 and have grown in recent years.
Supervisors weren’t receptive to those requests. “Sounds to me like he wants to do a review of the entire budget process,” Jenkins said.
After the board took a break, and the vote was finalized, the park did not come up again and it remains pushed to future years for construction.
Even though Tuesday’s vote means that the bulk of county funds have been allocated, supervisors will decide Aug. 7 what to do with unspent “carryover” funds.
As a part of the budget Tuesday, supervisors allocated $33,000 to Rainbow Riding Center, which provides therapeutic horse riding for children with autism, brain injury and other disabilities. Supervisors will decide whether to spend an additional $178,000 on the organization in August.
Also vying for that unspecified pot of money is the Americans in Wartime Museum, which has requested $200,000 per year for five years for building improvements; $50,000 for Northern Virginia Conservation Trust; and an engineering study for Route 1, according to county officials. The Route 1 study does not yet have a price tag.