Fairfax County supervisors took the first steps Tuesday toward deciding on a rate for a controversial Tysons tax district they approved in early January.
While the board will work with an advisory committee to set the tax rate —expected to be approved in April and implemented next year — supervisors mulled two methods of setting the rate Tuesday: introducing a higher, steady tax rate that can remain unchanged for decades, or starting low and raising the rate in small increments every year.
The district, which hikes property taxes on both residents and developers, will help fund billions of dollars in transportation infrastructure over the next 40 years, moving the area closer to becoming the county’s new urban downtown center.
The stable rate – expected to be between 7 to 9 cents per $100 of assessed value – could raise the average resident’s property tax bill by as much as $312. Residents with higher home values could see their taxes go up by as much as $720.
During the meeting of the Board’s Revitalization Committee, county staff said they preferred the steady rate because it was the more efficient option and would raise more money faster, thus ending the tax district sooner.
The $250 million raised by the tax district will go toward funding part of a projected $3.1 billion in transportation needs, which span 17 projects to be completed by FY2053.
According to staff, a steady tax rate could ideally raise that amount of money by Fiscal Year 2038. A phased approach would take another 10 years, ending in Fiscal Year 2048.
But Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) didn’t agree with immediately slapping residents with a significantly higher tax rate, recommending the county adopt a more phased approach.
“I’m really uncomfortable with this,” he said.
Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), who voted against the district and made an unsuccessful motion early on to exempt residents from the tax increase, worried some of these multi-million dollar projects could get delayed, or increase in cost in years to come.
“Our crystal ball is only so good, and our crystal ball is based on these [projected] costs,” she said. “But we have seen costs have the ability to go up.”
The Board also discussed the fairness of taxing residents, an issue that was settled during the district’s approval in January.
Chairman Sharon Bulova maintained the county was going to work with the Virginia General Assembly to lessen the impact on residents, but there would be little movement during the 2013 session.
“My understanding is we’re not making a lot of progress this year,” she said.
Staff informed supervisors that Del. Mark Keam’s (D-35th) bill to exempt residents from the taxes was at a standstill and would be looked at next year.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) said the Board approved the district in an 8-2 vote, well aware of the effect on residents and the likely lack of state support.
“To backpedal on that now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said. “We are where we are.”
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranseville) encouraged his colleagues to focus on the future.
“We’re in a position where we’ve got to move this forward,” he said. “I think it’s fair to everyone.”
The board-appointed advisory committee that will focus on helping supervisors set rates will hold its first meeting at the end of February.
“We’ll be counting on their recommendations,” Bulova said.
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Letter to the Editor: Say No to Tax District
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