1-Cent Tax Increase OK’d in $1.6B Budget

It’s official: taxes are going up.

Loudoun supervisors cast their final vote on the fiscal year 2017 budget Tuesday evening, setting in stone a 1-cent increase in the real estate tax rate.

This brings the rate to $1.145 per $100 of assessed value—an increase of $47.46 per year for a home worth Loudoun’s 2014 median home value.

[See how much that increase will cost you here.]

In total, the budget comes to $1.6 billion, including $1.06 billion for public schools, a $475.14 million for general government operation, and $8.99 million for the Children’s Services Act Fund. About 69 percent of local tax revenues next fiscal year will go to the school system.

The vote was 7-3. Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) voted against the budget.

Reading from a prepared statement, Volpe said that even at the equalized tax rate, many people in her district would see tax increases, and she could not in good conscience support this budget.

“Expansion must be moderated by restraint, and there must be a balance between growth and affordability,” Volpe said. “It’s the board’s duty to provide for this in a steady and deliberate way.” She also said that the “process by which the School Board generates its budget is incompatible with our [the Board of Supervisor’s] process.”

Meyer agreed that residents in his district, especially elderly people on fixed incomes, would see their taxes go up even without the rate increase, and have asked for tax relief. He worried that the board would get into the habit of what Higgins called “incrementalism,” or raising the tax rate by small amounts each year.

Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), the three dissenting votes. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run), and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), the three dissenting votes. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t have a better discussion with the school system, and have an honest discussion about needs and prioritizing needs,” Higgins said. He argued that the schools could have been adequately funded without a tax rate increase by phasing in the expansion of full-day kindergarten over two years instead of one.

“I think it’s fair to say that when it came to the final analysis, there were roughly three members of the board who wanted a lower tax rate and three members who wanted a higher tax rate, and here we are at $1.145,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “So maybe there’s something just right about that number.”

He said he would support the higher tax rate and sought value for money. “What I’ve heard consistently is that people do value quality services, that perhaps the end-all be-all for all citizens is not necessarily the lowest possible tax rate.”

Boosting the tax rate allowed the county to increase its school funding by $58 million, leaving a $16.9 million shortfall in the School Board’s requested budget. It also makes room for $4.5 million in new county government spending, including community resources and juvenile/sex crimes deputies, a senior medical position in the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management, new mental health providers in the adult detention center, and a bigger facility and longer hours at the Sterling public library.

Even so, the board approved slightly less than half of what county departments had requested.

Supervisors reflected on the new board’s first budget after straw voting ended, while the staff prepared the final budget document for a vote.

“We certainly didn’t fund everything that the county was asking for, but if you looked at where most of that money was going, in a lot of cases, it was just things that had we not spent the money on it, it would have cost us more in the long term,” said Letourneau, chairman of the board’s finance committee.

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (R-At Large) said the tax rate was below what she has heard Loudouners ask for. She said constituents overwhelmingly asked her to fully fund the school budget request.

Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“We find a reason to discount the voice of the people when it comes to the schools,” Randall said. “Every year we do, and we decide that the people don’t know what they’re talking, don’t know what they’re asking for.”

However, she said, the timbre of the new board’s first budget debate was “very respectful” and that the discussion was “civil and substantive.”

“I know that in the past I’ve heard people who have come to speak called puppets, called minions, called sycophants—all kinds of names, just because people come out and speak,” Randall said. “And this year, those names and name-calling did not happen, and I was very pleased with the tone.”

Despite friendly overtures between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, old frustrations over communication returned. Some supervisors repeated that although the county board provides funding to the schools, it has no control over how that money is spent.

Higgins reiterated a common board frustration about communicating with the School Board.

“It doesn’t seem like we can have an honest discussion about the school budget,” Higgins said. “They throw out what their needs are, and then … we don’t get credit for what we fund, we get credit for what we didn’t fund, and we can’t get into this conversation with them about priorities.”

Higgins, a former School Board member, argued the board has only fully funded the school system’s budget request twice in the past 17 years, and that this year the board funded 98 percent of its request.

Supervisor Ralph M. Buona stands with the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget after the board narrowly supported his proposed tax rate. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Supervisor Ralph M. Buona stands with the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget after the board narrowly supported his proposed tax rate at a budget work session. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The board adopted the Capital Improvement Program unanimously.

Among the changes in that program, is that HS-9 would get design money in fiscal year 2018 and construction in fiscal year 2019. ES-31, which does not yet have a site, would be pushed back to fiscal year 2018. Overcrowded Dulles-area schools are given first priority in the plan. Countywide classroom additions are pushed back from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2021, while accelerating Dulles-area classroom additions from fiscal year 2019 to fiscal year 2017.

The plan provides funding to begin work on three Dulles Greenway alternatives: Shellhorn Road, Westwind Drive, and Prentice Road. The extension of Shellhorn Road, Meyer’s (R-Broad Run) signature campaign topic, runs parallel to the Dulles Greenway. Westwind Drive connects Loudoun County Parkway to Rt. 606, linking Brambleton residents more directly to Rt. 28 and taking them off congested Waxpool Road. Prentice Road runs parallel to Shellhorn Road further north.


8 thoughts on “1-Cent Tax Increase OK’d in $1.6B Budget


  • Pingback: School Board Makes ‘Painful’ $17M Budget Cut – Loudoun Now

  • 2016-04-10 at 5:28 pm

    CareerSwitcher, I agree on the semantics. Since you believe there is no difference between “not offered”, “not expanded” and “cut”, let’s look at all the “cuts” according to your logic:

    1. LCPS students won’t have a personal chef to cook them the most nutritious meals according to their individualized tastes and needs

    2. LCPS students won’t have individual psychologists to help them overcome test anxiety, parental pressure, and other pressures from everyday life

    3. LCPS won’t be able to provide state-of-the-art MacBooks to every student

    4. LCPS teachers won’t have their salaries increased to a minimum of $150K/yr. Such a “cut” was said by one teacher to be unimaginable because despite not really understanding her subject, she said “well, I just deserve it”.

    5. Supt Williams and his staff won’t have limousine service to chauffeur them to/from home as well as to drop in on schools. He’ll have to use his own $250K/yr salary to fund such “urgent needs”

    6. LCPS won’t be able to hire competent, ethical attorneys to defend against FOIA lawsuits and civil rights complaints when the school board suppresses public data or retaliates against its critics. Instead LCPS will have to rely on in-house attorneys and insurance-funded lawyers who openly defraud the courts and have their arguments destroyed in all courts outside Loudoun

    7. LCPS teachers won’t have in-school masseuses and gourmet chefs to cook them meals in the event they stay a few minutes after 3:00pm when schools let out.

    How dare the BOS “cut” such perks?!!! I mean, these aren’t needed but if we can’t give our teachers and students such luxuries, how in the world will they survive in the real world?!

    While we are at it, why don’t the Republicans in Congress stop “cutting” the $50K/yr Social Security benefits to all, the free houses to anybody that doesn’t want to work, and the free healthcare for all (including illegal immigrants)? I mean these people are humans who really, really want these handouts. Why would Congress deny them these “needs” when we only have a $60T deficit?

    I also agree, CareerSwitcher, that you should stop defending LCPS’ continual string of mistakes, their attempts to “stonewall” critics (their words, not mine) and the outrageous attempts to blackmail the BOS into throwing largesse to the schools. One would think you would get tired of defending the indefensible at some point.

  • 2016-04-08 at 9:32 pm

    Folks, welcome to CareerSwitcher’s NeverNeverLand. In this world, an increase is really a cut simply because that sounds draconian. Let’s reiterate the facts:

    1. LCPS budget increased MORE than enrollment growth plus step increase costs combined!

    2. LCPS is asking to greatly expand services/expenses in a number of areas including teacher salaries (over and above a step increase), FDK, and deans

    3. If the rate of growth slows, that is not a “cut”. That is simply slower growth.

    4. Trying to shift choices from those that are easy (slower FDK expansion, elimination of extra salary scale increase, very small class size increases) to those that have highly vocal special interests but need not be cut (performing arts, differentiated instruction) is simply a political ploy to pretend the BOS didn’t give them a 7%+ higher budget in the face of 3.8% enrollment growth.

    Read the comments on the Educate Don’t Segregate Facebook page. Fairfax teachers living in Loudoun explain how FLE has always been taught by existing teachers in Fairfax. And yes, Fairfax teachers’ wages have increased very slowly, if at all, over the past few years while Loudoun’s teacher salaries continue higher each and every year. That “strategic action” to increase LCPS salaries to 3rd in the region is Hornberger/Turgeon/DeKenipp trying to use their position to vote themselves a raise without any disclosure. If LCPS is 3rd, then which of the following high cost-of-living areas will be willing to have lower salaries than Loudoun: Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Montgomery? Remember, only 2 of them can have higher salaries than LCPS according to Hornberger…. And he thinks it’s fine to vote his spouse a raise in this budget without any disclosure as required by law (section H).

    I guess the only good thing that has come out of this reconciliation is Supt Williams has given us a long list of other line items that could be cut (up to $40M+) and that based on my FOIA request, LCPS was forced to reduce the line item for step increases from $16.8M down to $10.3M ($5.5M difference). Hey, what’s $5.5M when Loudoun taxpayers are gullible enough to believe a slogan like “fully fund the budget”?

    • 2016-04-10 at 8:10 am

      Semantics is a silly game, SGP. Call it a cut or call it a mushroom, the end result is the same. Services and programs will be reduced, eliminated, not expanded, or not offered. As I said, some of these are fine while others are more significant. For you to continue your tirade against the schools is tiresome and entirely disconnected from reality.

  • 2016-04-06 at 11:45 pm

    Charlie McKeon, did you pass math when you were in school? Maybe you are confused. Here are the facts:

    1. Tax revenues increased

    2. The tax rate also increased

    3. Tax revenues from higher tax rates increased at a higher rate than population growth or student enrollment growth

    4. LCPS funding from those higher taxes increased at a higher rate than enrollment growth + teacher step increases of 2.3% combined!

    5. Per pupil spending across districts has almost zero correlation with the quality of the schools

    6. LCPS will never claim they are fully funded. LCPS lowered their request by $20-30M this year alone because they didn’t want their budget estimate to seem even more outrageous than what it is. Their budget is simply what they think they can get + some extras thrown in to make it seem like they are compromising

    7. If you were seriously interested in the quality of the schools, maybe you would be asking for the PISA test data so we could see where we needed to improve. And you would insist on teachers and principals being accurately evaluated (do you believe that every single principal in LCPS is doing an outstanding job? really?)

    Constant tax rates should be sufficient to provide ever-increasing tax revenues. In fact, lower tax rates should occur as economies of scale are realized. The 1 cent tax rate increase this time was reasonable. Your ridiculous claims are not.

    • 2016-04-08 at 2:44 pm

      Here is another facts – most homeowners are not going to notice any increase in what they pay because of this rate – the dollar a week will not make anyone’s home escrow account move at all.

      What SGP refuses to acknowledge is that there will be cuts to program, benefit, and services. Some will not be delivered while others will be significantly changed.

      Some of these cuts and changes are fine, others will have a more dramatic impact – for instance, eliminating the FLE teachers and replacing them with online training will not deliver the same education that students have been receiving.

      Another example is the elimination of the performing arts school. While folks like SGP will deny that this is a cut because it does not exist yet, the rest of us realize that semantics does not play well here. The BOS has spoken and now the SB will prioritize spending by eliminating and reducing.

  • 2016-04-06 at 7:03 pm

    In an election year members of the Republican Party heeded a poll that showed most in the county were willing to pay more in taxes for full funding of the school system budget. Election over, Republican supervisors have reverted to their policy before the election year—underfunding the school budget in deference to the cheapskate faction of supporters of their party, who always prefer another dollar in their bank accounts to better public services.

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