Fairfax Supervisors Tack on Bitter Do-Over Motion for Tax Hike

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at Feb. 29, 2016 meetingA few hours after passing a motion for an advertised 4-cent hike in real estate taxes for Fiscal Year 2017, some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors asked for a practically unprecedented do-over.

That led to a tense discussion and vote to reconsider at the end of Tuesday’s seven-hour Board of Supervisor’s meeting — as well as a supervisors’ shouting match after the meeting adjourned.

Though a vote to reconsider is allowed under Roberts Rules of Order, it had not been put into use in nearby 20 years. Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) said she could not remember one since 1997.

“I am troubled by this,” said Gross. “I don’t think we should be considering voter’s remorse on the same day [as we passed a motion].”

At issue was the advertised tax rate, the maximum amount the supervisors can raise taxes for the upcoming year. The rate hike was presented three different ways during the morning session of the supervisors meetings. Supervisors John Foust (D-Dranesville), Kathy Smith (D-Sully) and Dan Storck (D-Mount Vernon) were in favor of a 6-cent rise in the tax rate. That did not pass the rest of the board, however.

The board then voted 5-5 (a tie is considered a failure) on a five-cent increase.

Ultimately, the 4-cent (to $1.13 per $100 of home value) hike — which was the recommendation of county executive Ed Long but probably will not give Fairfax County enough money to fully fund the school system’s nearly $2 billion funding request — passed the board 7-3.

Six hours later, Foust was asking the board to reconsider.

“I am very disturbed by this,” said Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who was holding back tears by the final vote Tuesday. “Certainty is whether you are on the winning side or the losing side. This is childish play. You didn’t get your way and you want to come back and change it. And to my colleagues on the school board, I say ‘you can’t always have it only your way.’ ”

Supervisor John Cook (R-Fairfax) was also upset.

“This was all discussed in hours of conversation last week,” he said. “Two of you were willing to shut down the government because you didn’t get your way. All we get told by the school board is if we don’t do exactly the way [they] want it we are bad people. We have to make decisions. We have to get six people who can reach a compromise, which we did.”

Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) called the do-ver “appalling and embarrassing” and “maddening.”Supervisors tax rate votes 2017

“We are starting off the budget season on the worst foot possible,” she said. “Sorry if it did not work out the way some people wanted, but that is where we landed.

Storck, a former member of the FCPS school board, said it is not just about the schools.

“This is about county services we all care about,” he said.

Smith (D-Sully) said she supported the 6-cent rise as a maximum rate as well as the motion to reconsider in order to have a complete discussion on county services.

“The unfortunate result is we have limited the discussion we can have on our county budget for this year,” she said. “Moving forward, I hope that next year we will be able to advertise a tax rate that allows for a full community discussion.”

Chart courtesy of Chairman Sharon Bulova’s office; Photo: Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at Tuesday meeting.

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