Taxes may climb slightly in Pr. William
Prince William County officials presented a proposed $878.3 million general fund budget Tuesday that raises taxes slightly to help reinvigorate the county's road and library projects.
The general fund budget is 4 percent higher than in fiscal 2011 and all the new money associated with the tax hike will go toward the remaining road projects in the 2006 bond referendum and two new libraries, including one that has been on the books for 20 years, county officials said.
"We believe right now is the time to reinvest in our future," Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor said. "There is no better time to start these capital projects."
The proposed tax rate is $1.213 per $100 of assessed value. Though the tax rate is lower than last year, because residential property assessments are expected to go up, the average residential tax bill would go up 3 percent to about $3,200. The average commercial bill would decrease by almost 10 percent, county officials said, noting that taxpayers will also pay an additional 7.4-cent fire levy, or about $197. The residential bill, however, would still be lower than it was in 2007 and 2009.
Peacor said the average tax bill in Prince William would also remain lowerer than the bills in neighboring jurisdictions. Loudoun County's average residential tax bill is expected to be about $5,200. In Alexandria, it is expected to be about $4,400.
Some of the road projects that would commence under the proposed budget include expanding portions of Prince William Parkway, Minnieville Road and Route 1 and extending Rollins Ford Road, county officials said. In all, there are more than a dozen projects included in the budget.
The two proposed libraries in Montclair and Gainesville would also be constructed and would be slated to open by September 2015. County officials said the fire levy would fund the construction of the proposed Bacon Race fire station, which is scheduled to open in fiscal 2016 on Prince William Parkway and Davis Ford Road.
Under the proposed budget there would be no layoffs for the first time in four years, a 2 percent merit-based salary increase for employees, a $421.7 million transfer to the schools, and no cuts to agency base budgets unless they come from the state.
The police department, however, is slated to lose six vacant positions because of state cuts, Peacor said. She noted it is not the board's policy to replace state or federal funding cuts. Since fiscal 2008, the state has cut almost $3 million from the county's police department. Under the proposed budget, the county would not add additional police until fiscal 2013.
County officials have found roughly $8 million in savings over the past year, mostly through refinancing, cheaper leases and a reduction in the employee payroll. With that savings, Peacor proposed budgeting an additional $391,900 to the Department of Social Services, which has seen 82,000 new applications for assistance in the past four years. Peacor said the money would fund 13 full-time positions, five of which would expire in 36 months.
"I think that is complete overkill," Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said about the new social services positions. "I know there are justifications, but if it were up to me, I would move that money over to hire more police officers. The recession will end" and fewer people will need assistance.
In the fire and rescue department, there will be a roughly $3.6 million increase in revenues, thanks to the ambulance fee program. The money will go toward staffing an advanced life support unit 24 hours a day and a new daytime career transport unit.
Peacor said she has set aside $500,000 for supervisors to discuss and allocate during the budget process.
County supervisors will spend the next two months listening to various department heads and county residents on April 4 and 6. The final budget will be adopted on April 26.
| February 15, 2011; 5:37 PM ET
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