Coronavirus pandemic forces Fairfax Co. to revise budget, eliminate proposed tax hikes

Taxes won’t be going up in Virginia’s Fairfax County after the county executive revised the proposed budget because of the coronavirus pandemic.

And a new tax on movie, theater and concert tickets has been eliminated from the new Fairfax County FY 2021 Budget proposed by County Executive Bryan Hill.

“This revised proposal maintains the current Real Estate Tax rate of $1.15 per $100 of assessed value and eliminates the proposed three-cent increase – including the two cents that was proposed to balance the General Fund and the one cent for affordable housing,” Hill writes in a letter to the Board of Supervisors earlier this week.

The proposal projects no new county revenue.

The new budget nixes employee pay hikes, reduces the school system’s operating fund and cuts new positions in the county government from 177 to 20.

Additionally, extended library hours are no longer proposed under the new budget.

What’s in the Fairfax County budget?

The budget sets aside $9.84 million in reserve funds to address the pandemic. Funding in the new proposal would add positions to respond to the pandemic.

Hill’s new budget makes changes from his previously proposed budget released in January in light of the coronavirus pandemic, citing its “massive impact on the economy and county residents,” according to a release.

“Little did we suspect, at the time, that the COVID-19 pandemic could so quickly and significantly change the economic outlook — not only for Fairfax County but across the country and the world,” Hill said.

fairfax county budget
Here’s a look at the highlights of the Fairfax County budget. (Courtesy Fairfax County)

“At this time, we are unsure how long the current economic downturn will last as we do not yet know how long it will take for our country to begin to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, even if we are able to ‘flatten the curve,’ there are concerns that the virus could come back and spread throughout the country once again. In fact, until there are demonstrated treatments that may alleviate symptoms or an approved vaccine, we may be faced with cycles of social distancing and economic disruption for the foreseeable future. It is important, therefore, that we be conservative in our assumptions in this revised proposal,” Hill writes.

Hill expects the coronavirus pandemic will impact many of the taxes the county collects to provide services.

“We expect significant impacts to sales tax, transient occupancy tax and BPOL (Business, Professional, and Occupancy License) tax revenue. Personal Property taxes could be
impacted as new car sales are expected to be moderated and business investments are anticipated to be stifled,” Hill said.

The originally proposed 3-cent real estate tax rate increase would have funded Board of Supervisors priorities, including early education, the environment and affordable housing.

More Coronavirus News

The increase in the transfer to the Schools Operating Fund is reduced from $85.52 million in the original proposal to $7.31 million in the new proposal.

County compensation increases for employees as well as new positions to staff various programs and facilities including the under-construction Scotts Run Fire and South County Police stations, Diversion First and the Opioid Task Force have been eliminated.

The budget public hearings have been rescheduled for April 28 through 30. There will be no in-person testimony because of social distancing guidelines, but video, phone and online testimony options will be available, the release said.

The date for the county supervisors to adopt the budget has been pushed back from May 5 to May 12.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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