It’s not certain if Loudoun will be able to take over billing and collection of town real estate and property taxes, but supervisors are laying the groundwork nonetheless.
County and town officials say centralizing real estate and personal property taxes with the county would both simplify things for town residents—who would receive one tax bill instead of two—and create a cost savings for the towns, which would dedicate 1 percent of their revenues to expanding the county’s operation.
But first the county must get enabling legislation passed through the General Assembly—which supervisors say is not guaranteed.
“I understand how the General Assembly works, and I also understand how the General Assembly doesn’t work,” said Supervisor Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “And every time I think there’s something logical to do in Richmond, they do just the opposite.” He said it may help the legislation, when drafted, to be specific to Loudoun.
Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10) has said, provided he is re-elected, he will carry a bill to that effect so long as it provides towns an option rather than a mandate.
Clark Case, director of Finance and Administrative Services for the Town of Leesburg, said the move would be about saving money and reducing the “hassle factor” for town residents.
“It’s a good deal for the taxpayers, and that’s why we support it,” Case said. “We recognize that some of the small towns may not have that savings, but certainly for Leesburg it’s a good deal.”
He also said, “it’s a good enough deal for Leesburg that we think we should go forward with it even if none of the other towns went forward with it”—an important caveat, since the towns will split a $200,000 start-up cost with the county to launch the program. The towns could divide their $100,000 share of the cost among themselves, meaning the fewer towns that participate, the heavier the burden on those that do.
The towns of Purcellville and Hamilton have already said they don’t want to participate. The Town of Round Hill has expressed interest in joining after the program has started.
“We’re new to the real estate tax game, so this would be something that would be very beneficial to us, and I think in general it’s a good example of good governance,” Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance said. “We can all save and combine our forces, and we are all Loudoun county residents and taxpayers.”
The county finance committee unanimously recommended the Board of Supervisors include two new positions in the office of county Treasurer Roger Zurn to handle the additional workload, contingent upon enabling legislation passing the General Assembly and upon reaching a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and participating towns.
The committee also recommended spending $220,000 to start the program, if necessary, with $100,000 to be reimbursed by the towns.
Overall, county staff estimate, between the costs of new staff and operations and the anticipated new revenues, the program would have a net impact of $25,000 a year to local tax funding.