Property tax hike possible in Fairfax County - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Property tax hike possible in Fairfax County

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There is a distinct possibility that the property tax rate in Fairfax County could soon be going up. But before that happens, the Board of Supervisors will hear from taxpayers and stakeholders.

The biggest school system around, Fairfax County, is still growing -- and students are coming in at the rate of 3,000 additional per year.

Since the recession, teachers have not had much in the way of raises.

"Teachers have seen one 'step increase' (which is a contractual increase based on their evaluation). So we've seen one of those in five years," said Kimberly Adams, President of the Fairfax Education Association. "And then a minimal -- one percent -- cost-of-living increase one year. And a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase another year."

Teachers now have to pay more for their retirement and health care plans. So, for some teachers in Fairfax County, take-home pay has gone down over the past several years.

Superintendent Karen Garza and the school board are asking for a 5.7 percent increase in school spending, and even with that, she is predicting slightly more crowded classrooms.

Home values in Fairfax County have risen in the last year, and that will supply more revenue, some of which will almost certainly go to the school system.

But the property tax revenues from appreciation alone are not enough to cover the $96 million increase school leaders are requesting.

County leaders are considering a one or two cent increase in the property tax rate. That will drive residential and commercial property tax bills even higher.

Residents are split. Homeowner John Hefferan, a retiree, says “no.”

"We've had a substantial increase in the assessments, which obviously raises the tax for us,” he said. “And to do additional to that [by raising the rate of taxation], I think is making the property owners suffer quite a bit."

Fairfax County homeowner Jim Vincent has a different view: "Providing the money is being spent intelligently and well. I don't have a problem supporting something as intelligent and worthwhile as the schools. Absolutely."

A hike in the residential tax rate may be among the only options for more revenue in Fairfax County. A recent report noted that revenues from car taxes are declining, and sales taxes are down sharply, because of the severe weather in February and March.

After listening to taxpayers and stakeholders on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Board of Supervisors will consider its budget options.

A final vote on the budget is scheduled on April 29.

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