After years of debates among Loudoun supervisors, county staffers will take a turn at trying to improve the county’s tax relief program for elderly and disabled property owners.
Members of the previous board, including incumbent supervisors Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), tried to come up with a way to balance the county’s tax relief policies for elderly and disabled people.
Buona said because the program is based on net worth and gross income, it can penalize people whose net worth includes retirement savings accounts.
“What’s it’s doing is, it’s penalizing people that their careers were in the private sector, and they developed assets like 401Ks and IRAs,” Buona said. “And it doesn’t give them relief because of that net worth, even thought they might only be living on income from Social Security, whereas those that had government pensions may not have saved for the net worth, because they knew they had a pension.”
A staff report gives the example of a person with a $250,000 house and $441,000 net worth—just over the $440,000 threshold for tax relief—who is living only on $2,000 a month from Social Security. That person would receive no tax relief. By comparison, a retired federal government employee with a pension instead of private savings, who lives in a $900,000 house and receives $4,400 a month from Social Security and their pension could receive 100 percent tax relief with $439,000 net worth.
“The Treasurer [H. Roger Zurn Jr.] and Commissioner of Revenue [Robert S. Wertz Jr.] are going to tell you we have the most generous program in Northern Virginia, and maybe we do,” Buona said.
But previous attempts to revisit the tax relief questions were all been knocked down in votes on the previous board, and incumbent Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) remained skeptical.
“I get what Supervisor Buona’s saying, and it wasn’t because I didn’t think the existing program didn’t need changes, it was because I don’t favor expanding it,” Letourneau said. “And I didn’t think it’s fair to ask all of the other residents and all of the other citizens to subsidize other citizens living here.”
Despite his reservations, the idea had broad support on the board. Rather than take another attempt at rewriting it, supervisors directed staff members to research a net worth and income tiered system to make the tax relief program more equitable. The meeting item, which was brought by Buona and County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), passed 8-0-1, Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) absent.