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

by Karen Goff March 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm 8 Comments

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.

  • cRAzy

    In a moment of cRAziness, I find I agree with Hudgins and Cook. The Board is beginning to look like the Republican Presidential campaign on how high to hike the tax rate. (Oh, not really THAT bad, but still.) Always more, more, more taxes–especially property taxes. Only a matter of how much.
    Gee, maybe they could actually take a look at whether they need to SPEND all that money, including the money for schools. Now that would be a constructive change.

  • John Higgins

    The “motion to reconsider” is also known as a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Response. Having failed to achieve a 6-cent rate boost, Storck and Smith opposed a 5-cent rise but supported 4 cents. That makes no sense.

    Apparently it took a couple of hours of forehead smacking to realize that they would have gotten at least part of what they wanted had they not been petulant about the 5-cent compromise. One supervisor doing that is an oops. Two is an embarrassment for which I don’t have a word.

    • JoeInReston

      Storck and Smith might as well pretend that they wanted the 4-cent rise all along. The do over motion does not make them look any better.

    • Martin

      The chart shows them also voting no on the 4 cents.

      • John Higgins

        Martin, you are right. I was careless and my words got ahead of my thoughts. I meant to observe that if the 5-cent proposal was rejected, the remaining options were 4 cents or less. They enabled or facilitated (not supported) the 4-cent increase. A tactical error by both. Thanks for keeping the record straight.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    It wouldn’t have been too bad if the “Mulligan” vote had been to consider a lower tax rate instead of a higher one.

  • TBird73

    Oh look, Storck and Smith tried to blatantly gouge every taxpayer in Fairfax on behalf of the schools the very first instant they got a chance. And then, of course, stonewalled any compromise. And then, laughingly asked for a do-over when they didn’t get their way. Boy, that wasn’t predictable at all. Reap what you sew, punk.

  • Why do you bother?

    I could have lived without the face of venal this morning, crocodile tears notwithstanding.

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