Loudoun Supervisors Vote for One Cent Real Estate Tax Increase

The Board of Supervisors voted narrowly Thursday night for a $1.145 real estate tax rate, one cent higher than the current rate.

The rate sends $694.8 million in local tax funding to the school board, leaving a $16.9 million shortfall in the school board’s adopted budget. Proponents say that more than meets the school system’s needs.

In previous meetings, supervisors had voted for budget items bringing the tax rate up to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value, leaving $3.9 million extra unallocated. Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) moved to send that unallocated money to the schools and bring the rate up another half penny.

“This is the sixth year in the row that the Board of Supervisors will have substantially increased the school budget significantly more than the growth enrollment,” Buona said. He argued the funding increase covers the cost of enrollment growth,  the Academies of Loudoun program, plans to expand full-day kindergarten, and most of the school board’s proposals for raises.

However, as supervisors pointed out, how schools use their funding from the county is at the discretion of the School Board.

Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“People in the public out there need to understand, it’s literally like handing your kids the car keys, and you have no idea if your kid’s going over to their friend’s house to see a movie, or whether they’re going to the house party,” Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) said. She joined Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) in pointing out that for two years in the row, the board has provided funds to address a “sag” in the teacher salary pay scale. The “sag” refers to a lower pay scale for mid-career teachers in Loudoun when compared with other metropolitan Washington jurisdictions.

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and supervisors Koran T. Saines (R-Sterling) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) argued for a higher tax rate to provide more money for schools. Randall referred to the number of people who came to the board asking for a fully funded school budget request. She dismissed the argument that these speakers represented special interests.

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) sit next to each other on the dais but on opposite ends of the debate over the tax rate. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) sit next to each other on the dais but on opposite ends of the debate over the tax rate. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“I’m going to chose to believe that Loudoun County is full of people who are freethinking people who are not puppets, who are not minions, who understand money, who understand their own household budgets, and their own household taxes, and yet they still come year after year after year and they say, ‘fund the schools,’” Randall said.

Other supervisors took their election as a mandate to keep taxes down.

“Public input, as it happens here, is part of the process, but I think it’s a real big mistake for us to think it’s the only part,” Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said.

“I know six of us on this board that ran on fiscal restraint, and the people that elected us expect us to show fiscal restraint,” Higgins said.

Nonetheless, Randall argued that she had heard the same message, asking for a fully funded budget request, outside the boardroom.

“I’m voting my conscience and my constituency,” she said three times during the debate.

Umstattd and Saines unsuccessfully proposed motions to raise the tax rate, and the conversation prompted Saines to quip at one point, “Feels like we’re on the campaign trail a little bit here.”

Only Higgins attempted a lower rate than Buona’s motion, $1.14, which he described as the equalized rate for homeowners, but his motion found no support.

Ultimately, Buona’s motion for a $1.145 tax rate passed 5-4, Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), Higgins, Umstattd, and Volpe opposed.

Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) criticized board members who voted against the new tax rate without offering an alternative. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) criticized board members who voted against the new tax rate without offering an alternative. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Higgins chastised dissenters who opposed the tax rate, but did not offer any alternatives.

“I have to question whether we’re sincere or posturing in positions we take,” Higgins said, adding he was “disappointed, however perhaps not surprised.”

The county staff will now prepare a budget document based on the board’s work over the past month. The board’s final vote on the budget and tax rate will be April 5.

6 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Vote for One Cent Real Estate Tax Increase

  • 2016-03-24 at 11:15 pm
    Permalink

    Good!

    And before people claim that the school board will have to cut all these various programs, remember this. Raising average class size by a single student will more than cover this shortfall AND provide additional funds to give central Loudoun schools additional assistance for higher rates of FRL/ESL under the current zoning plan. The attempts to exercise a Rahm “let’s not let a crisis go to waste” Emmanuel strategy by holding differentiated instruction hostage (employed by Maloney and others) should cease now. Cut the unnecessary spending (scale increases and FDK expansion) and adjust average class size to fill in the rest.

  • 2016-03-25 at 7:54 am
    Permalink

    That’s intentionally misleading Supv. Volpe. The proposed school budget is the most transparent in years, and I was in the room when it was clearly presented to you.

    You didn’t win your election based on a mandate but rather by keeping yourself under the radar on these issues during your campaign and election.

  • 2016-03-25 at 2:11 pm
    Permalink

    “This is the sixth year in the row that the Board of Supervisors will have substantially increased the school budget significantly more than the growth enrollment,”

    I wouldn’t be proud of that.

    LCPS needs 3% and gets 8%. If growth was 3% and they got 3% and my taxes went up, it wouldn’t be so bad. But when you raise taxes to give 5% above the enrollment growth, then that is largesse.

  • 2016-03-25 at 3:27 pm
    Permalink

    Virginia_SGP – I enjoy your posts. I believe we are in sync on most issues.

  • 2016-03-26 at 8:50 pm
    Permalink

    Why, oh why do we keep making the inane statement that budget increase needs to be equal to enrollment increase. Please show me the information that shows how the entire school budget is directly tied to the student population.

  • 2016-03-27 at 1:49 pm
    Permalink

    90s Loudouner:

    1. ~90% of the school budget is tied to personnel costs

    2. As Rdj keeps saying, 92%+ of personnel are in the actual schools, not overall administration

    3. The student:teacher ratios remain constant year over year

    4. So budget = (# of teachers) * (cost per teacher). Or the budget increase = [(# of teachers) * (increase in cost per teacher)] + [(increase in # of teachers from enrollment growth) * (cost per teacher)].

    See, it’s not so hard. Aside from paying the same teachers more, the primary driving factor is enrollment growth.

Leave a Reply