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Stewart touts Prince William’s economy, projects

Prince William County has maintained a vibrant economy while slashing budgets and expanding infrastructure, Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart said Tuesday in the annual “state of the county” address.

“It’s not just about cutting taxes,” Stewart (R-At Large) said. “It’s about making the difficult choices to cut and invest to accomplish the goals set forth by the elected body serving the community.”

Stewart said that recently completed projects to widen Route 1, build commuter parking lots and open two schools, Ronald Reagan Middle School and PACE West, are indicative of the county’s strides. Employment in the area is up, as are wages, he said.

He also noted the community’s challenges. Schools are increasingly crowded in many areas, and residents have asked for more libraries, parks, ballfields and other amenities.

“We cannot rest on our laurels and pretend as though the job is done,” Stewart said.

The speech also frames this year’s budget discussions, as Stewart and other supervisors have discussed passing a budget that ensures a flat real property tax bill. His proposal would mean severe cuts to programs that are mandated by the state, including the Department of Health and other social services.

Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) said in a news release that the cuts the county has made to ensure a lower residential tax burden than other Northern Virginia jurisdictions have had consequences. In two blazes along Route 1 last year, Prince William’s fire equipment was not the first to reach the scene, and those communities instead relied on fire equipment from other localities.

“Prince William firetrucks and equipment were parked at nearby fire stations along Route 1 but simply did not have the staff to respond. . . . I find this alarming, ” Principi said in a statement.

Principi said funding critical unmet needs would require an average real estate tax increase of $37.25 per month, or $447 over last year’s average real estate tax bill.

His proposal would fund more police and fire personnel and bolster county mental health services, he said.

“While tax increases are never popular, my budget resolution is grounded in core local government responsibilities,” Principi said.

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