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Small Tax District 5: A Primer

by Karen Goff October 2, 2014 at 11:00 am 10 Comments

Reston Community CenterThere are two more days to vote in Reston Community Center’s Preference Poll, which selects representatives to RCC’s Board of Governors.

If your home is located in Small Tax District 5, then you are eligible to vote.

A common question in Reston: what exactly is Small Tax District 5 and why am I paying?

In March 1975, Small District 5 was created to pay for the construction and ongoing operation and maintenance of the Reston Community Center.

In 1977, $2.6 million in construction bonds were issued. RCC opened in 1979. Final payment was made in August 1999.

Nearly 40 years later, residents of Small Tax District 5 are still paying for RCC. The tax district map encompasses all of Reston (homes both in and out of Reston Association) and some nearby streets.

The special tax rate levied on all residential and commercial property in the tax district is 4.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

That means if your house is valued at $500,000, you pay about $235 annually  for the community center operations (personnel and programs) and maintenance (repair and replacement).

That is in addition to Fairfax County taxes of 1.085 per $100 of assessed home value, Reston Association assessments of $634 (2014), and cluster fees if you live in a Reston cluster.

Reston Community Center Executive Director Leila Gordon says the tax rate is actually lower than it was in previous years. The rate started out at 3 cents in 1979. It was raised (by request of the Board of Governors and approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors) in the early 1980s to 6 cents. Then it dropped to 5 cents in 2003. In 2007, it was lowered to 4.7 cents (by motion from Hunter Mill Supervisor and approved by the supervisors).

Tax districts are authorized by the Code of Virginia, Title 21. These tax districts have a wide range of powers, including the authority to levy and collect taxes; construct, maintain, operate, and acquire assets; issue bonds (subject to voter approval by referendum); and borrow money.

New tax districts can be created, such as the one formed to pay for Tysons Corner transportation infrastructure in 2013. Tax districts are created without requiring a referendum and taxes can be levied and decreased or increased without the consent of the residents.

Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors is continuing to study building a new indoor pool and recreation center. To move forward, that proposal would have to go to a voter referendum, and none is scheduled through 2014.

Some who have spoken out against the rec center — estimated to cost $35 to construct — fear it will cause Small Tax District rates to rise.

Do not keep talking about a Reston Community Center indoor pool and recreation center as though RCC is the only option for us to get a pool/rec center,” Tammi Petrine, co-chair of Reston 2020 and Reston Citizens Association board member, wrote recently in the Reston Now comments. “RCC is a separate, special entity for which we in Small Tax District 5 pay extra taxes. Fairfax County Park Authority is the entity whose job it is to build our facility.

“Yes, we deserve a pool and rec center, but funded by Fairfax County just as every other county district has and has had for years. Restonians do not have unlimited resources. We can not keep self-funding all of our amenities despite what the majority of the RCC board thinks. Reston residents are the payers and we need to make the Governors understand that we are tapped out.”

Gordon says the tax rate will not rise.

“Our board will not raise the tax rate,” she said. “We are working on achieving the rec center the community wants in a manner that includes contributions from sufficient private and public resources to spread the cost and keep our tax rate where it is. Ultimately, we feel strongly that multiple funding partners will be needed and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get there.”

  • Laura Calacci

    Good article. I hope all who read it will realize that when RCC and RA donate money to projects like the turf field at South Lakes, it is like being taxed 3 times for the same thing. We already pay for the schools with our real estate taxes. We pay for RCC with our taxes and they turn around and give it to South Lakes for the field. We pay RA membership dues and they also turn around and give it to South Lakes. I’m using the turf fields as an example, but I’d bet it applies to other pet projects as well. So we pay for all Fairfax County employees, their fabulous retirements, health care, tuition reimbursement and 401K match plans, and then we pay again for RA employees with their same fabulous benefit packages. Same thing for RCC. Oh yea, and RA board members IPads.

    • Ffx Co Taxpayer/Employee

      Laura — FYI, Fairfax County employees do not have 401K plans therefore the taxpayers do not fund a match. Also, tuition reimbursement funding is very small and is distributed to qualifying employees on a first come, first serve basis. Other than this, I understand your concern about being taxed multiple times for the same expense.

      • Laura Calacci

        Thanks for the info. There must be pensions then, as I know my old neighbor bragged relentlessly about her retirement from the county and then went and “double dipped”….that is, got another job with the county while collecting some sort of retirement benefits??

  • Consis Tently-Wright
    • Karen Goff

      fixed now

    • Terry Maynard

      I, too, am having trouble now with the link–and I don’t know why. I would suggest you go to the RCC website (restoncommunitycenter.com),
      –click on the “About Us” tab at the top of the website
      –then click on the “Board of Governors” tab
      –Near the bottom of the right-hand column you will find “Ancillary materials….”
      –The second document is “Brailsford & Dunlavey Project Update: November 4, 2013” That’s it!
      Hope that works for you.

      • Karen Goff

        It has been fixed.

  • Leila Gordon

    I remind Terry that the RCC Board has officially requested the County include an indoor rec center in its plans for Reston Town Center North. In addition, the Board has consistently said it agrees that other funding than solely SD 5 dollars should and must contribute to achieving this amenity for Reston. You have a copy of the letter and have attended many meetings of the Board where both positions have been discussed and agreed upon by every RCC Board member. I am really puzzled by your continuing insistence that we are pursuing something other than what we say we are pursuing.

    • Terry Maynard

      Thanks, Leila, but I have not said you are pursuing anything other than what you said RCC is pursuing.

      What I pointed out in the first sentence of my comment is that your statement in this article that STD#5 tax rates won’t be raised (“Our board will not raise the tax rate”) is “extremely unlikely anytime in the foreseeable future in the face of the growing cost estimates for the rec center and the slower than forecast increase in Reston home values.”

      I’ll stick with that evaluation.

      I think it will be extremely difficult for RCC to entice a developer (or several) to provide sufficient construction capital–much less continuing operating capital–to prevent STD#5 tax rates from rising, much less prevent the Reston tax bill from rising as home values increase. (And right now businesses aren’t helping keep tax rates low at all with their huge vacancy rates. As County budget data shows, their taxable value is stagnant if not diminishing despite optimistic construction, mostly in Tysons.) And to seek RA as a partner–as was proposed in 2009–is just “double dipping” into Restonians’ pockets.

      As one of our reports states, we anticipate the need for the the STD#5 tax rate to rise about 30%-45% to cover the costs of a new rec center based on comparisons with other County rec facilities and FCPA data. We’ll stick with that until RCC can provide documented facts and figures that show otherwise, not just continuing assertions of RCC effort however well intended.

  • Mike M

    just a reminder that we’re barely out of the woods with this recession. before we look at funding another monstrosity perhaps look at closing the books on the RCC. and for that matter complete a full third party audit on the RA. my guess, regardless, RA fees will be 20-30% higher within the next five years. the time to pay up is now.

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