Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mt. Vernon Gazette: NOVA's One-Way Street to Richmond

Fairfax County sends a huge amount of money to Richmond and gets about 20% of it back. At my Town Meeting with Senator Puller and in my weekly columns (here, here, here) I have continued to reiterate the total unfairness of the General Assembly continuing to reduce the amount of money it sends back to Fairfax County while at the same time telling us how to spend it and not broadening our local taxing authority. This year's budget proposal is among the worst yet by gutting education and social services funding.

Part of this is because of the long-hated Dillon Rule named for Judge John Forrest Dillon - that cities and counties only have the powers and authority granted to them by the General Assembly. One delegate told me he once had to get a bill through so his county could pay employees every other week instead of twice per month.

The consequence of this trend is that our residential real estate taxes in Fairfax County are much higher than Alexandria, the City of Fairfax or Falls Church because they have the authority to tax something other than their residents to help pay for services.

This week, The Mount Vernon Gazette seconded my argument with this great editorial:
Increasing Burden, But No Tools
In Virginia, localities like Fairfax County, Arlington or the City of Alexandria, have only the exact powers that the Virginia General Assembly has bestowed upon them.

The right to extend protection from discrimination to particular groups? No.

The right to decide when school will open in the Fall? No.

The authority to tax income? No, only the state can tax Northern Virginia residents’ income, and then the state spends that income everywhere but here. Northern Virginia gets back less than 20 cents on the dollar it sends to Richmond. No "piggyback" income tax allowed.

The authority for local elected officials to consider a variety of broad based sources of revenue to fund schools and other services? No.

And let’s be clear, voters could evict representatives who overstepped tolerances.

So now as the state budgets is shaping up, or shaping down would be more accurate, without knowing the exact details or numbers, it’s clear that hundreds of millions of dollars in non-optional social services and education expenses (K-12 and higher education) will shift to localities.

Localities are already grappling with decreases in revenue because of the decline in real estate values. And taxing real estate, commercial and residential, makes up the vast majority of most localities’ revenue base.

Arlington has proposed increasing the property tax rate by more than 11 percent, or 9 cents.

Fairfax’s real estate property tax rate would increase from $1.04 to $1.09, though the drop in home values would mean that Fairfax residents would pay approximately $48.55 less on their property tax bill than they did last year.

Home values in Fairfax declined between 3 percent and nearly 8 percent, depending on location (see chart at But consider the drop in value since the top of the market. In McLean, the jurisdiction that held up the best, assessments are down 12.5 percent from the top a few years ago. In Lorton, assessments are down 28.7 percent from the top of the market.

So while in Richmond, the General Assembly slashes and burns its way to a budget with no revenue increases, here where the rubber meets the road, there are few options, because the General Assembly won’t allow them. They’re passing the bill, but refusing to allow any reasonable method of making up the difference.
Thank you to the Mount Vernon Gazette for stepping up to broaden awareness of this problem.

One of my fellow delegates here describes Northern Virginia as a boiling pot that is going to explode if they don't let out some of the steam pretty soon. We'll see....

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for continuing to speak out on this issue - obviously, Northern Virginians are behind you all the way, but we need to figure out how to actually make some changes...