The average homeowner’s local tax bill will go up by $105 in the next fiscal year under a budget Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors approved last week.
The board voted 6 to 2, with Supervisors Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) and Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) dissenting, in favor of a $3.2 billion spending plan that includes pay raises for county employees, as well as funding increases for transportation, public safety and homelessness services.
The plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 also fully funds the Prince William School Board’s $1.7 billion budget for the next school year.
To help pay for these government services, supervisors voted to raise the county real estate tax rate from $1.122 per $100 of assessed value to $1.125, which increases the average tax bill by $71. Prince William’s fire levy will go up, as well, from $0.0705 per $100 of assessed value to $0.0792, which works out to $34 more for the average property owner. The average assessed value of a home in Prince William is $345,643.
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) and Candland voted against the tax rate hike. Stewart, who is running for the GOP nomination for Virginia governor, unsuccessfully pushed to maintain the $1.122 rate, and Candland said he also was uncomfortable with the uptick.
“I think it’s a little bit too much of an increase,” he said.
Principi said he was disappointed his colleagues chose to defer action on a 10-year plan he proposed to eliminate trailer classrooms at county schools.
Although the trailer proposal — which would cost about $600 million — calls for tax increases in future years, Principi said it could have been started in the next fiscal year with no immediate tax hike by using existing funds.
The supervisor said his peers preferred to refer the idea to a capital projects committee instead of enacting it right away.
“We just keep kicking the can down the road here,” Principi said.
Board Vice Chair Jeanine M. Lawson (R-Brentsville), however, succeeded in getting approval for a higher pay raise for Prince William government employees than what County Executive Christopher E. Martino proposed earlier in the year.
When Martino announced his initial budget plans in February, he recommended spending $3.3 million on a 1 percent pay raise for employees and another $4.1 million on a program for additional 2 percent merit raises.
Lawson was able to marshal support to spend $5.8 million so the county could offer 3 percent merit increases.
The approved budget also includes $1.6 million — or $225,000 per supervisor district — for small road projects, such as work involving sidewalks, speed bumps or turn lanes. Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) suggested the idea, which reinstates a discontinued program.
Public safety initiatives in the budget include $6.5 million to hire 59 fire and rescue personnel at facilities in Gainesville and near Lake Jackson, as well as at Station 14 of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department.
The spending plan also calls for hiring 13 police officers, three civilian police employees, two county sheriff’s deputies tasked with performing evictions, and 28 full-time workers at the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center. Additionally, it will implement a police body-camera program at a cost of $1.3 million.
The spending plan for the next fiscal year also allocates $400,000 to help residents living in homelessness and to prevent others from losing their homes. Four full-time and two part-time employees will be hired as part of a plan to enable Prince William’s government to offer housing assistance to 177 more people.
Overall, Nohe said, he was excited to see almost “across-the-board support” among supervisors for most aspects of the county budget.
Approving the fiscal plan shows that the board is being responsible with taxpayer money, he said.
“You know, very small shift in the tax rate, very cautious spending,” he said.