Fairfax Tax Rate the Same, but Tax Burden Up

Fairfax County Board of Taxaholics, er, Supervisors

by Emilio Jaksetic

The massive lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses and workers to lose significant amounts of income and forced them into financially precarious situations. Despite the undeniable financial pain and suffering that many businesses, workers, and households are facing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors insisted upon another increase in the real estate tax. Ignoring the request of Republican Supervisor Pat Herrity to hold off on the increase, all the Democratic Supervisors decided to stick to their usual taxaholic ways.

Technically, the board did not raise the real estate tax rate itself. Rather it allowed the tax burden to increase by not adjusting the rate — $1.15-per-hundred dollars of assessed value — downward to offset higher property assessments. If board members had wanted to provide meaningful tax relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, they could have “frozen” everyone’s real estate tax bills for 2020 at the same level as their real estate tax bills for 2019.

Everyone in Fairfax County, not just property owners, will feel the painful effects of the real estate tax increase.

Businesses affected by the real estate tax increase will have their cost of doing business increased in a financially difficult time. When the cost of doing business increases, businesses are forced to make difficult and painful choices: (1) raise the prices of their goods and services; (2) reduce the amount of the goods and services they can afford to provide; (3) reduce the number of employees they can afford to pay or reduce the number of hours their employees work; (4) move their business to another jurisdiction where they can afford to operate; or (5) go out of business altogether. Any of these choices will have a negative impact on the citizens of Fairfax County, not just those businesses that are directly hit by a real estate tax increase.

Renters will also be affected by the real estate tax increase. The owners of rental property will have their cost of doing business increased. When the cost of doing business increases, the owners of rental property also are forced to make difficult and painful choices: (1) raise the rents they charge; (2) reduce the number of employees they can afford to pay to maintain their rental property, or reduce the number of hours those employees work; (3) defer and delay maintenance of their rental property; (4) stop using their property for rental purposes, or (5) sell their rental property. Any of these choices will have a negative impact on (a) renters and their families, and (b) businesses operating from leased premises, not just the owners of rental property.

Naturally, homeowners will be directly affected by a real estate tax increase. Homeowners must pay their mortgages, pay for utilities, pay for maintenance and repair of their homes, pay for their daily living expenses, pay for the support of their families, and pay for medical bills, and pay for other incidental expenses associated with their lives and the lives of their families. When a homeowner gets a real estate tax increase, the homeowner often has to face difficult and painful choices about where to cut or defer other costs of living in order to pay the real estate tax increase. Those painful choices will aggravate the many other problems that homeowners are trying to cope with during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The financial pain and suffering caused by the COVID-19 lockdown are significant, and for too many people, are heartbreaking. The people of Fairfax County deserve some real compassion and sympathy from the Democratic members of the Board of Supervisors, not just words of compassion and words of sympathy. Actions speak louder than words. In these difficult times, the people of Fairfax County deserve, acts of real compassion and sympathy from the Democratic-controlled Board of Supervisors — not a heartless, partisan real estate tax increase.

Even the significant negative financial costs imposed on the people of Fairfax County by COVID-19 pandemic did not give the Democratic-controlled Board of Supervisors reason to temper their taxaholic ways. What else can we expect from the insatiable appetite for tax increases arising from the taxaholic ways of the Democratic-controlled Board of Supervisors? Not even simple tax restraint for 2020 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused so much financial damage and distress to the people of Fairfax County.

Emilio Jaksetic, a retired lawyer, is a Republican in Fairfax County

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22 responses to “Fairfax Tax Rate the Same, but Tax Burden Up

  1. What would the “levelized” tax rate have been? How much net new revenue was generated by the assessment increases?

  2. Cheapeake the same way.

  3. It was the same in Prince George. We have one of the higher rates of the rural counties at .86/100. The county re-assesses real estate every year and went up average of 9%countywide. My home went up over 50k in assessed value (over 23%) year to year, particularly aggravating since I had bought the home within a that year for less than the county assessment. I appealed and was able to get them to decrease the increase by about half. The county administration still wanted to move forward with a 0.05 increase, along with continuing to increase County staff. The BOS (nonpartisan but I believe majority Republican in practice) elected to cut the proposed new positions, cut the budget elsewhere and nixed the increase. They voted 3-2 against reducing the tax rate to the .80/100 equalization rate. Despite being rural and nature and I believe a majority Republican in leadership, PG like most government has a serious problem with steadily increasing spending.

  4. First of all, the county budget and tax rate was adopted last spring, before the full fiscal effects of the pandemic could be known.

    Second, I don’t believe that the board could have legally “frozen” individual tax bills at the 2019 levels. The board could have equalized the rate, as suggested by Atlas Rand, so that the new rate would have brought in the same amount of revenue. However, some property owners would probably have seen tax increases, depending on the assessments.

    Third, Mr. Jaksetic is like a lot of people who oppose taxes. He complains about the taxes, but does not point out what expenditures should be eliminated to get the tax down to what he thinks should be fair. Steve Haner makes a good point: how much additional revenue was generated by the increase in assessments? I would go a couple of steps further in the analysis: What did the board do with that additional revenue? Would Mr. Jaksetic be willing for the county to forego those additional expenditures? It is easy to complain about taxes and expenditures, but it is quite another thing to develop a budget, that is, decide which constituent needs or desires should be funded and which should not be.

    • The pandemic was in full bloom by March. Believing that it wasn’t possible recognize the economic consequences of COVID-19 last spring is pretty farfetched. The Fairfax BoS just didn’t care.

      A lowering of the tax rate along with increased valuations could have accomplished a tax freeze.

      Mr. Jaksetic is like a lot of people who oppose HIGHER taxes IN FAIRFAX COUNTY. Mr. Jaksetic never made any comments that he opposes taxes. Unlike most of the commentators on this board, Mr Jaksetic (and I) actually live in Fairfax County. We’ve seen the county slide from being one of the premier places in America to live to being a dumpster fire of problems. All through the decline, the leftists on the BoS insisted that the answer was higher taxes. I don’t care what the hacks on the BoS plan to do with the extra money they are taking during an economic downturn – it won’t make things better.

  5. Virginia assigns extreme importance to holding household property tax “rates” low. Holding actual total local taxes low, is not our forte.

    Consequently we tax the bejesus out of new cars, each year, so that we can claim to have low taxes on physical property. The tax rate on car property (car tax) in NoVA approaches 5% versus the 1.x% on land property, and somewhat less below $20k car value. The car tax is a disincentive to buy a new (greener) car such as hybrids and plug-ins. I bet if we did not have the car tax, we’d have a whole different car population (reflecting the affluence of the region) up here.

    With Dems in charge in Va., I am expecting massive subsidies on plug-in cars shortly, which is not exactly what I think we need to do. I would just make the car tax less of a progressive slammer on cars. Arlington Co. gives a modest tax break to hybrids/plug-ins, which helps to offset the extra car tax those buyers have to otherwise pay as a “green penalty”.

    Meanwhile can you imagine if stopped car tax as a state tax crutch? Heaven forbid, we would have to advertise property taxes as higher than quoted, which is an anathema here.

    • IN any case, the car tax makes greener cars like plug-ins cost many thousands more in Virginia. In Maryland, for example, there is no car tax, and you get several thousand tax credit. Something big like a Tesla Model X, we could be talking $10-20K more cost to the Virginia owner.

    • How soon we forget. Jim Gilmore ran for governor, and won, on the promise to get rid of the car tax. Because the elimination of the tax would have hit local governments so hard, the legislation provided that the state would reimburse the localities for the lost revenue. That reimbursement was to be phased in, but it quickly became apparent that it would be much more than originally contemplated. Much to Gilmore’s anger, the Republican General Assembly capped the reimbursement at $950 million. As a result, each car owner’s car tax is reduced and the locality is reimbursed by the state. Over time, with the increase in the prices of cars and the increase in local personal property tax rates, that subsidy has been reduced in relative value. But the state budget is still on the hook for almost $1 billion a year in reimbursement of car tax revenue.

      • How soon? When Jim Gilmore entered office the team formerly known as the Redskins had yet to be bought by Dan Snyder (and were still winning playoff games), Bill Clinton was president and Nokia dominated the cell phone market.

  6. The Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance (FCTA) has been fighting the excess County expenditures for years, but the Democrat leadership doesn’t care. FCTA’s work can be seen at http://fcta.org/FxCo/Taxes/. In particular, I showed how the budget can be cut considerably, especially if employee benefits are made the same as private-sector benefits (see http://fcta.org/Pubs/Reports/2015-03a-fac.pdf). Did you know that when a teacher retires in her mid-fifties after teaching for only 30 years, she has a pension that is the equivalent of over $2,000,000 in a 401k? Few private-sector retirees have that much in a 401k after working 44 years. By paying the teachers and other county employees well, the politicians secure their vote.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      The rest of the teachers in Virginia do not get that sweetheart deal like sages from Fairfax. I think things have changed though. The new crop of teachers are certainly not grandfathered into the old Fairfax retirement system.

      • How new do you have to be?
        I have some relatively new teachers in the fam.
        My layman understanding is Ffx has huge teachers employee benefits, but salary is not so superior. Which is probably not the right balance, but that’s where we are (or were).

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Fairfax has VRS and a county retirement too. In the old days you got a good deal. Double pension. You paid for it though. Fairfax held back a portion of your check to cover the county pension. I believe the county pension has been revised. So new teachers still get it but it is a reduced benefit that the teacher mostly pays for. The county backed off their contributions.

        • I looked at this issue five years ago (http://fcta.org/Pubs/Reports/2015-08a-fac.pdf). Including benefits, Fairfax ranks 4th out of 10 in the Washington Area for teachers with a Masters plus nine years of experience. I didn’t look at everything, but Arlington County pays more, including benefits, for those with 7 to 21 years of experience, but Fairfax pays more, including benefits, after 22 years of experience. The objective of the reported work was to determine if teachers leave Fairfax for higher compensation at neighboring districts. The conclusion was: if so, not many.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            We picked up a number of teachers in Loudoun who came from Fairfax. A shorter commute was worth the trade. Most of them were really good teachers too.

  7. Gilmore’s car tax cut was a step toward tax fairness in Virginia. Deadbeat (I mean RoVA) gets a virtual free ride from NoVA taxpayers. Vince Callahan (Janet Howell too) often told me that every single time state aid for K-12 education was increased, local governments in RoVA often cut their real estate tax bills. By taking state tax dollars and sending them back to local governments to replace car tax dollars, there was less NoVA tax money to be used to subsidize low property taxes elsewhere in the state. Needless to say, this one sailed over the Post’s editorial board’s collective heads.

    And lately, about the only thing the ever-left-lurching Democrats care about are illegals, criminals, teacher unions and rent-seeking environmentalists.

    • What is a rent-seeking environmentalist? Hint- I will probably like the answer

      • A rent-seeking environmentalist is someone or an entity that seeks to profit from selling, renting or financing some good or service favored by legislation or regulation. He/she/it is identical to Dominion, but may have different products or services in mind.

    • “Vince Callahan (Janet Howell too) often told me that every single time state aid for K-12 education was increased, local governments in RoVA often cut their real estate tax bills.”

      Please provide examples. I’ve lived in rural counties since 1991 and I have never experienced a net reduction in my real estate tax bill from one year to another.

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