Car rates

Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun target tax rates as cost of living rises

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Northern Virginia officials hope to offset the effects of inflation, a robust housing market and other economic forces that have driven up the cost of living by lowering or freezing residential property tax rates. — efforts that critics say aren’t enough to help some residents get by.

Tuesday, Arlington County Council voted to freeze its residential property tax rate at $1,013 per $100 of assessed value, while the Fairfax County Board of Directors said it would soon reduce its rate by 3 cents and the county of Prince William was to reduce his by 12.

The city council of Alexandria, which is voting on its budget next week, seems to be leaning towards freezing its tax rate. Loudoun County cut its 9 cents per $100 earlier this month.

Local government leaders have raised concerns about the tax implications of rising home assessments, as well as high auto values ​​caused by global disruptions in auto manufacturing.

Area residents “are seeing the cost of living rise beyond our control,” Fairfax Supervisor Dalia A. Palchik (D-Providence) said Tuesday before her board of directors voted 9-1 to approve a $4.8 billion spending plan that will cut the tax rate to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value when officially passed next month.

The national inflation rate is the highest in 40 years, while petrol prices are also on the rise, after the war in Ukraine prompted NATO countries to cut imports of Russian oil. But tax rate cuts — along with tax relief programs that have recently been expanded to help the most vulnerable residents — will mean millions of dollars in lost revenue for local jurisdictions, at a time when the region still trying to get out of the economy. crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some residents and local civic groups seeking less government spending have noted that even with freezes and tax rate cuts, residents will still see their annual tax bill rise — on average $395 in Arlington, for example. , and $465 to Fairfax.

The median selling price for homes in the area is $650,000, up from $519,000 in 2019, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. Some residents have seen their property assessments soar as much as 20% over the past year, said Arthur Purves, head of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, a perennial critic of county spending decisions.

“It’s really tough for those of us who are retired, living on fixed incomes,” Purves said.

Robert Marino, president of the Oakbrook Community Council Homeowners Association in Fairfax, told the county council at a public hearing this month that some homeowners in his community have seen their assessments skyrocket due to of the turbocharged real estate market, in which multiple offers on a home drove up values.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say our community is uniquely and unfairly impacted by this substantial increase in assessments,” Marino, who said he saw his home’s assessment increase by 135, told the board. $000 this year. “This translates into a unique and unfair impact on the taxes we will be forced to pay.”

Several jurisdictions have sought to balance these realities by pushing for increased spending in areas focused on economic recovery.

On Tuesday, Fairfax’s board, which treated itself to the luxury of a $96 million surplus — after higher-than-expected revenue and some cuts made earlier in the fiscal year — agreed to earmark $10 million for affordable housing.

The county board also directed $6.1 million to pay raises for public safety personnel hired before June 30 last year, a move intended to address recruiting and retention issues within the county. a police department where morale is low.

In a first for Fairfax County, property taxes on automobiles were based on 85% of the vehicle’s assessed value instead of the full amount, in recognition of the increasing value of cars. To help cover those expenses, the board cut its allocation to county schools by $10 million — a move the school board agreed to in advance — and cut additional hiring at the county attorney’s office. six positions, for a saving of $804,000.

“The theme I’ve established in my mind for this budget is balance,” said Jeffrey C. McKay (D-At Large), chairman of Fairfax’s board of directors, during Tuesday’s meeting. “Balanced between much-needed services in the county, investments in our public employees, and an understanding of the financial strain that skyrocketing high appraisals, high car values, inflation and other things that affect residents of our community.”

Arlington’s $1.5 billion budget, which the board approved Tuesday night, represents a 7.6% increase in spending over last year, the bulk of which will go toward funding the education and raises for county employees.

The county’s school system will receive an additional $54.5 million, or 10.2 percent, over last year’s budget, for a total of $584.4 million.

Most county employees will get 5.25% merit raises. Uniformed firefighters and sheriff’s deputies will receive an 8.5% pay increase, and uniformed police officers will see a 13.5% increase.

“After two years of minimal wage increases and rising costs of living, this budget recognizes the hard work of our employees, which has been so critical throughout the pandemic,” the county council chairwoman said. , Katie Cristol (D), before the vote.

But with the region’s economy picking up steam, rising home values ​​and rising tax assessments should be a reality in the coming years, according to real estate industry experts.

With mortgage interest rates still relatively low and the pandemic pushing more people to seek larger homes that can serve as workspaces, suburban DC communities will continue to see strong sales, Ryan McLaughlin said. , CEO of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

“We don’t necessarily expect price declines to occur in the near future,” McLaughlin said. “The demand is too strong in our region.

Fairfax County Supervisor Daniel G. Storck (D-Mount Vernon), whose neighborhood includes lavish homes overlooking the Potomac River a short drive from mobile home parks, said reality points to an even greater need great to address the serious lack of affordable housing. In the region.

Without that long-term commitment, “we’re going to dig this county in a way that’s not what we want,” Storck said.