Loudoun Supervisors Kick Off Tax Rate Talks

Supervisors have set County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to work writing the first draft of the next county budget, starting with an estimated 3.5-cent real estate tax rate cut.

Hemstreet will write the budget at the equalized tax rate, the rate at which the average Loudoun homeowner pays the same real estate tax dollar amount despite rising property values. He will also present supervisors with options to increase or decrease the tax rate by 2 cents, this year about $8.6 million in expenditures for every penny of the tax rate.

The current rate is $1.085 per $100 of assessed value; the estimated equalized rate is $1.05.

County leaders are expecting this year’s deliberations, the last of the current board’s four-year term, to also be their most difficult. This year, the county is launching in earnest an effort to catch up on staffing levels and pay rate for its employees, after the county government lagged behind the county’s growth.

“The important thing this year is that implementing classification and compensation will put additional pressure on us that we wouldn’t normally have in any other year,” said Management and Budget Director Erin McLellan. “So, while our revenues are strong and we’re trending very much like we were last year, that additional pressure is going to limit what else we can do.”

County staff members estimate this year that will cost about $22 million.

County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) opposed the board’s direction to Hemstreet, arguing that cutting taxes below the equalized rate would create too large of a gap in the school system’s funding request. Hemstreet has warned cutting the budget below the equalized rate could mean the county would be forced to cut some services.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the plan to create options with 2-cent increases or decreases would require the county staff members to show supervisors the priorities for growth or, if necessary, options for cuts.

School Superintendent Eric Williams is scheduled to unveil his proposed spending plan Tuesday, and his staff’s early estimates indicate he could be requesting as much as $116 million more next fiscal year. He’s said the money is needed to cover an increase in enrollment, open and staff two new schools, and cover employee raises and increasing health care costs.

Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) called the school system’s request “quite extraordinary,” as growth in that budget request is expected to once again outpace enrollment increases.

But, Buona—who Randall had earlier remarked “does not play games, you know exactly where he’s coming from,” especially as he enters his final year on the board not seeking reelection—said there is one thing he’s learned in what will be eight years of county budgets.

“It doesn’t matter at this point,” Buona said. “It doesn’t matter. And we go through all these work sessions, and honestly, to me, it doesn’t matter that much, because we all know there’ll be a vote one night, and we’re all going to do what we’re going to do, and we will have suffered through 10 work sessions and three public hearings, and half of the people up here already know where we’re ending up.”

He said the board is unlikely to go above the equalized tax rate budget, but could go below.

“None of it matters until that vote in the first week of April,” Buona said, when supervisors finalize the next fiscal year’s budget.

“I feel like we need a permanent disclosure for 2019, which is that Supervisor Buona is speaking for himself,” remarked Letourneau.

Supervisors voted 8-1, Randall opposed.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

2 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Kick Off Tax Rate Talks

  • 2019-01-04 at 1:25 pm
    Permalink

    Let’s hope Ralph Buona feels freedom to do what’s right and proposed a $0.95 tax rate. Here is why.

    Each of the last few years, LCPS couldn’t spend $40M of its allocated funding. That is worth nearly 5 cents in the tax rate.

    LCPS is projected to have its lowest growth in enrollment in years, it came in at about 1% last year and is slated for 1-1.5% this year. When you compare that to the previous 4-5 years of 3-4% enrollment growth and $60-75M in funding increases, it’s clear LCPS doesn’t need anywhere close to $60M in funding increases. If we know they have $40M of padding in every budget and only 1% growth, they need maybe $20M of new funding.

    So where in the *#&$ do they get off asking for $116M or $100M more than they could possibly need?! Much of that is so 4 of the school board members can give massive raises (up to 15%) to their LCPS spouses. Such raises are immoral when LCPS gets 6 qualified applicants for every opening, could replace 60% of its teacher workforce in a single year with the qualified applicants, and it’s harder to get an LCPS teacher job offer than to get accepted into UVA.

    I haven’t even begun to discuss the $100M in padding in the county budget. What’s clear is that this budget/tax rate should not be anywhere close to $1.03 but a max of $0.95.

  • 2019-01-08 at 5:44 pm
    Permalink

    It may surprise many of you that a recent independent study of the salary scale in Loudoun County that was solicited by the Board of Supervisors showed clearly that the salary of Loudoun County employees averaged about 13% below that of surrounding jurisdictions. The County has made efforts to begin the catch up, but are waiting on an additional study as to the best way to do this. Most of the county’s budget does go to our schools, as it should. In the county that has the highest household income in the country, we should expect excellent schools for our children, teachers, aids, and support staff should have a decent salaries. The class sizes should be relevant to the needs of the children. When the class has more children with behavioral issues, or languages deficits, there should be more teachers and or aids.
    In addition, there are many other departments that provide important services within the county whose employees also deserve decent wages. Currently, there is an issue with salaries being lower than other jurisdictions in Mental Health, Family Services, Fire and Rescue, Probation Officers, etc. Many employees accept positions here, become trained in their field, and then go to surrounding counties with the expertise gained here, where they can receive higher pay for the same kind of work. Loudoun County is known as a training ground for some of the surrounding counties. This works for them – they don’t have to spend the money on training that we do! They just offer former Loudoun County employees higher salaries. In Loudoun, we continue to train others to take their places, and the cycle continues.
    This is the result of lowering the tax rate every year. There are simply too few employees in a number of departments because it is difficult to hire qualified individuals when the salaries offered are inadequate.
    The services in the county are basic and indispensable. Where else do you get fire and rescue, local police, schools, mental health and public health, family services, child protective services, adult protective services, courts and judicial services, parks and recreation, libraries, etc. These are ALL LOCAL! The Buck Stops Here!
    Having an adequate tax base to fund all these services is a must. Many members of the Board of Supervisors want to tell their constituents that they supported lower taxes. It is an election year.
    But at what cost? Personally, I would rather vote for a board member that makes sure that the services that my family and my neighbor’s family need are funded.
    Taxes are a part of life, frankly a good part of life. It is the way that we all share the load of meeting our community’s needs. What kind of society would we have if we did not share this load?

Leave a Reply