Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Another step in the county budget process took place on Tuesday, when the Board of Supervisors authorized advertisement of proposed tax rates for the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which becomes effective on July 1, 2022. The current real estate tax rate is $1.14 per $100 valuation; the Board may adopt a lower rate but, once advertised, cannot set a rate above that cap. County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget is built on the $1.14 rate, but also contains nearly $80 million in unallocated revenue. That provides flexibility for the Board to reduce the rate, by at least three cents and perhaps four cents, prior to adoption of the budget on May 10. The proposed budget fully funds the school system’s operating transfer and provides a 4.01 percent compensation increase for county employees, plus merit and longevity increases for qualified employees.

What is unknown at this point is the amount of revenue that may be generated by the Personal Property Tax, known familiarly as the “car tax.” Longtime readers will recall the No Car Tax pledge made by former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore in his campaign for governor in 1997. It didn’t take long for the Commonwealth to discover that eliminating the personal property tax blew a huge hole in the state budget, so it capped the funding to a statewide total of $950 million, which fixes Fairfax County’s share at 22.24 percent, or $211 million. The JD Power (formerly Blue Book) figures on vehicle values are not yet available, but owners of used cars were surprised to learn of higher valuations last year, which affected their share of the car tax, and early indications are that used car values may be even higher this year, a partial outgrowth of the global “chip” shortage which has hindered manufacture of new vehicles.

The annual Mason District Budget Town Meeting will be held on Thursday, March 10, 2022, from 7 until 8:30 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Chief Financial Officer and Budget Director Christina Jackson will discuss the proposed budget, with a question-and-answer period following her presentation. The meeting is open to all Mason District residents.

Another item on the Board’s agenda on Tuesday was a once-in-ten-years adjustment of precinct boundaries, following the 2020 Census. Local magisterial, Virginia House of Delegates, State Senate, and Congressional election districts were redrawn to reflect changes in population distribution. The Board of Supervisors adopted new district boundaries by moving just seven precincts; redrawing the state and congressional boundaries was punted late last year to the Virginia Supreme Court when the citizen committee charged with preparing new district maps was deadlocked. The court’s maps created numerous split precincts which, under Virginia Code 24.2-307, must be eliminated before the June 21 primary election. Changes, including data entry, must be completed by March 21, requiring Board of Supervisors’ adoption of the changes to be completed sooner than originally scheduled.

In Mason District, 501 Baileys #1 and 531 Baileys #2 are recombined into one precinct, 501 Baileys, which will continue to vote at the Bailey’s Community Center. Likewise, 516 Weyanoke #1 and 531 Weyanoke #2 are recombined into 516 Weyanoke, and continue to vote at Holmes Middle School. 506 Holmes #1 and 530 Holmes #2, both small precincts that were split many years ago because of Congressional redistricting, are combined into 506 Holmes, voting at Woodrow Wilson Library. Portions of 508 Masonville and 511 Ravenwood west of Sleepy Hollow Road are merged into 512 Sleepy Hollow, which votes at Beech Tree Elementary School, and the southern portion of 508 Masonville will continue to vote at Mason Crest Elementary School. A small portion of 511 Ravenwood near Justice High School, and the western part of the former 530 Holmes #2, around Lake Barcroft, are merged to create a new precinct, 530 Tripps, which will vote at Bailey’s Elementary School. Voters do not need to re-register in their new precincts; those affected by the boundary changes will receive notification by U.S. mail later in the spring.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.