Board of Supervisors advertises steady tax rate, but locals say it’s a stealthy tax hike

The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County is currently set to keep its real estate tax rate the same as last year, but some local residents accused county leadership of trying to disguise a tax hike for local residents.

During a meeting on Tuesday (April 11), the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing for the fiscal year 2024 tax rate, which is likely to hold steady at $1.11 per $100 of assessed value.

The staff report notes, however, that holding the tax rate steady is effectively an increase in the tax bill for most residents. According to the report:

It should be noted that the total increase in assessed value of existing properties is expected to be 5.68 percent, including an increase of 6.97 percent for residential real property and an increase of 1.65 percent for non-residential real property. As a result, most property owners would experience an increase in their real estate tax bill even if the tax rate remains unchanged.

The tax rate drew the ire of some locals in the public comments, who said the relatively low attendance at the meeting was another sign that the public didn’t fully understand what the tax rate would mean for their bills.

“In his March 7 email, the Chairman said the advertised rate of $1.11 is unchanged from last year,” said Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers’ Alliance. “That statement is in violation of the Virginia Code, which states that previous years’ rate must be lowered to offset an increase in assessments.”

He claimed that the rate should be lowered to $1.05 and accused the County leadership of underhanded dealing when it came to the tax rate.

“A good rule of thumb for homeowners is that when supervisors say they are reducing the tax rate, expect a tax hike,” Purves said. “This is because the Supervisors only reduce the rate when there is an assessment increase and the rate is never reduced enough to offset the assessment increase.”

Purves said that, even as someone aware of the ins and outs of the budget process, it was still frustratingly difficult to find out when the public hearing on the proposed tax rate was being held. Others said they had similar challenges finding out when the budget hearings would be held.

“These taxes are a significant financial burden for businesses and homeowners alike,” said Justin Mastrangelo. “While I understand what you’re trying to do behind the increase, it can be difficult for many of us to absorb the cost.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay previously called the budget forecast a “real mixed bag” and indicated to FFXnow that he would support a reduction in the tax rate, though the board hasn’t signaled how much of a drop is under consideration.

Others at the public hearing noted that inflation and changing real estate markets would, as Mastrangelo said, put much of the costs onto county residents.

The tax rate is open to feedback until May 2, 2023. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote and adopt the FY 2024 budget on May 9.

Read more on FFXnow…

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