County supervisors may bring forward the idea of changing Loudoun’s form of government to do away with the elected financial officers, those officers have said.
Currently, Loudoun elects a commissioner of the revenue and a treasurer. The commissioner of the revenue, Robert S. Wertz Jr., is the chief tax assessor of the county, and provides income tax assistance and administers other tax relief programs. The treasurer, H. Roger Zurn, collects taxes and fees and makes payments on behalf of the government. He also manages the county’s investments. Both are Republicans.
Zurn confirmed he’s heard the idea is coming up.
“That’s the word I’ve gotten, as well,” Zurn said. “Now, have I seen anything on it as yet? No. But from one of the board members, that’s what I’ve been told is in the process, and probably will be either the second board meeting [Jan. 21] or the first board meeting in February.”
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) did not confirm that such talks have occurred. She said the topic is not currently planned for the next few board meetings.
“That’s a decision of the full body,” Randall wrote. “To date there has been no discussion with the BOS as a whole regarding form of Government[.]”
She replied to follow-up questions: “I’m willing to have the conversation, with staff & other Elected Officials. But at this point this is not something on an upcoming agenda. If that changes I’ll inform you[.]”She declined to be interviewed over the phone.
As of now, she said Monday, the topic of changing the county’s form of government is not going to be on an upcoming agenda.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who chairs the board’s finance committee, said he’d heard the idea talked about but it’s not currently a serious discussion—but if Randall moves ahead with another idea she has stated is a priority, to start a Loudoun County police department, “it’s probably natural that it would come up.”
“There hasn’t been much examination of any of this or discussion about it, or certainly any kind of indication of what the financial implications would be at this point,” Letourneau said.
Virginia law has several forms of government available to counties besides Loudoun’s current one, which sees voters electing a Board of Supervisors and five constitutional officers, including the treasurer, commissioner of revenue, sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, and clerk of the Circuit Court. Some other forms—such as the urban county executive form, used in Fairfax County—does away with the elected commissioner of revenue and treasurer.
To change Loudoun’s form of government, the Board of Supervisors must ask the Circuit Court for a referendum. If the voters approve the referendum, new Board of Supervisors elections are triggered the following November, and the new form of government takes effect with the new terms the following Jan. 1. In practical terms, that means any effort to make the changes are likely several years in the future, as supervisors won’t be in a rush to gear up for new election campaigns earlier than required.
The terms of the two officers whose elected office has been eliminated—the treasurer and commissioner of the revenue—end as soon as their powers have been transferred to a replacement. Their roles would be folded into a county department under the county administrator, who is hired by the board.
In 2012, a board-appointed Government Reform Commission examined the possibility of reorganizing Loudoun’s financial functions, including looking at jurisdictions with other forms of government.
While noting that other jurisdictions were in different circumstances in terms of growth and finances, then-Acting Chief Financial Officer Ben Mays at that time noted that the government’s finance and budget costs per resident were dramatically higher in some places—97.4 percent higher in Alexandria compared with Loudoun—and somewhat lower in others, such as 11.1 percent lower in Henrico, at that time the county with the closest population to Loudoun’s among those studied.
The commission ultimately did not propose consolidating the county’s financial functions, “as this would require a change in the form of County government and the merits of such a change were not immediately evident.”