Sunday, October 14, 2007

PWC Voters, Are Stewart's Priorities In Line With Yours?

Do Prince William County voters really care so much about illegal immigration that they'll re-elect a County Board Chairman who demands that the Board this coming Tuesday commit to spending more than $14 million on top of all the other required spending on schools and other services and even while cuts are contemplated for schools and other programs?

Check out the whole article from today's Prince William edition of the Wash Post - - including the last line I excerpt below.

Jump in Tax Rate Looms as Home Values Plunge
20 Cent Increase -- $257 Extra in Average Bill -- Required to Pay for Schools Plan and Other Priorities
By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2007; PW01

Prince William County residents will see an increase in next year's property tax rate, no matter what.

County officials estimate that real estate values will drop by 14 percent on average, requiring at least a 13 cent increase to the 78.7 cent property tax rate to keep revenue stable. But to properly staff public safety agencies, pay for technology upgrades and build roads approved in a 2006 bond referendum, the tax rate would need to be closer to 95 cents. And to fund the county schools plan, the rate would need to grow to nearly 99 cents, for a $257 increase in the average tax bill.

These rates don't take into account the Police Department's need for $14.2 million over five years if a crackdown on illegal immigrants is carried out, or the costs of defending a lawsuit filed by civil rights organizations over the clampdown.

The projected rates do include cuts to employee benefits and delays in expanding the public safety training center and in constructing schools.

"We will be looking at declining values of residential real estate for four years in a row," County Executive Craig S. Gerhart said to the county supervisors during a meeting Thursday to discuss financial matters.

County staff members estimate a 30 percent drop in average home values between fiscal 2008 and 2012. And the real estate woes have led to a "ripple effect" in sales and business taxes collected by the county, said Christopher Martino, the county's finance director.

Despite what Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) termed a "pretty scary" outlook, the chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey A. Stewart (R), refused to consider a less-expensive, staggered implementation of the illegal-immigration crackdown. A vote on the program is set for Tuesday.

"It all has to do with priorities," Stewart told the board.

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