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.

On Tuesday, Arlington County Council was set to freeze its residential property tax rate at $1,013 per $100 of assessed value, while Fairfax County Council said it would soon reduce its rate of three hundred and Prince William County was to reduce its own 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 reduced its nine cents by $100 earlier this month.

Leaders of these local governments have raised concerns about the tax implications of rising home assessments as well as high auto values ​​caused by global disruptions in auto manufacturing.

The national inflation rate is at its highest level in 40 years – 8.5% in March – while petrol prices are also on the rise, after the war in Ukraine prompted NATO countries reduce imports of Russian oil. It means area residents “see the cost of living rise beyond our control,” Fairfax Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) said before her board of directors voted 9-1 in favor. approve a county budget that would lower the tax rate to $1.11 per $100 of assessed value when officially passed next month.

But the 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 those jurisdictions, at a time when the region s still trying to get out of the economy. crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics noted that even with the freezes and tax rate reductions, residents would still see their annual tax bill rise — by $395 in Arlington, for example, and $465 in Fairfax. Some residents have seen their property assessments soar by as much as 20%, resulting in annual tax bills more than a thousand dollars higher than they were a year ago.

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 have artificially driven 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 with the need to increase spending in areas focused on economic recovery.

In Fairfax, which had the luxury of a $96 million surplus — after higher-than-expected revenue and some cuts made earlier in the year — the board agreed to earmark $10 million for the creation and maintaining affordable housing.

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

In a first for Fairfax County, property taxes on automobiles were set at 85% of the vehicle’s assessed value, a recognition of the rising value of automobiles caused by the global manufacturing glut.

To help cover those expenses, the board cut its allocation to county schools by $10 million — a move the county school board agreed to in advance — and cut additional hiring at the district attorney’s office. county of six positions, for a saving of $804,000.

“The theme I’ve established in my mind for this budget is balance,” Jeffrey C. McKay (D), chairman of Fairfax’s board, said at Tuesday’s board 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.”

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