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Real Estate Taxes Going Up And That's A Fact

LakeRidge-OccoquanPatch By Dan Telvock

How can anyone blame the man who was so upset yesterday about the dog and pony show that supervisors—namely Chairman Corey Stewart—have been playing  when they would discuss the new real estate tax rate and the bills that are coming later this year?

"You imply the tax [bill] is going down 2 percent but really it will be up 3 percent," said resident Tom Whitmore during yesterday's Board of County Supervisors meeting. "I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Prince William County residents should be mad.

The Board of County Supervisors approved the budget yesterday and it does in fact include a tax increase for most homeowners—an average of $78 more. [Supervisors John Stirrup and Michael May voted "no" on the budget.]

When it came to providing straightforward information about what the average tax bill would look like later this year, none of the eight elected leaders stepped in to explain it to residents. Instead, Chairman Corey Stewart acted as the ring leader of misconception when he had county staff puzzlingly spread the message that the fiscal 2012 tax rate is lower than the rates in both fiscal years 2007 and 2009. Suddenly, the word tax increase was exchanged for tax decrease.

Stewart's correct in that the tax bills will be lower than what they were in 2006 and 2008, but does anyone really care?

What will the average homeowner's tax bill look like later this year, Mr. Stewart? Anyone?

(insert sound of crickets)

Mr. Stewart and the rest of the county board decided that they were not going to be upfront to constituents about the tax bills this year. And anyone who spoke out against the tax increase was met with Mr. Stewart's dog and pony show to "correct the misconceptions."

Could he, and the rest of the board, have made it any more obvious that this is an election year?

The Board of County Supervisors approved a tax rate of $1.204 per $100 of assessed value. This means the average county homeowner will pay approximately 3-percent more in real estate taxes this summer even though the tax rate is lower. How can you pay more if the rate is lower? The residential home assessments increased by an average of 5 percent for the first time in five years and no one projected that to happen. 

The fear of telling residents about the tax increase doesn't seem warranted because this budget funds numerous important road projects, hires new police officers for the first time in three years and provides county workers with their first raise in a few years, while the schools get millions more.

This is an election year and on Nov. 8 all eight supervisors' seats will be up for grabs, including the Chairman's spot.

Do you think Mr. Stewart's two opponents, Democrat Babur Lateef and independent John Gray, will have any trouble telling county residents that the Board of County Supervisors raised real estate taxes for most homeowners in 2011?

Hardly not.

Now that's something to fear.