Prince William County cuts $40M from its budget in response to coronavirus pandemic

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

A leaner proposed Prince William County budget adds $5.2 million for the response and recovery to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as $3.7 million toward the county’s emergency fund.

Prince William County Executive Christopher Martino presented the modified plan Tuesday for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“We don’t know everything that may come at us in the next few months,” he said.

In February, Martino pitched a $1.13 billion budget that included a 2-cent increase on the real estate tax rate.

Some members of the Board of County Supervisors had suggested they could go even higher to meet some unmet needs, particularly in the school division.

But the budget presented Tuesday was about finding cuts, instead of raising taxes.

Martino recommend a $1.09 billion budget, which is about $40.6 million less than the February proposal.

Chair Ann Wheeler asked staff to redevelop the Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal based on the tax rate remaining at $1.125 per every $100 of assessed value.

“We’re trying to protect the most vulnerable,” Wheeler said during the meeting.

Individual property taxes may still rise due to an increase in property values.

In February, Martino’s budget would have raised the average residential tax bill $242 to $4,432.

On Tuesday, he proposed a budget that would increase the average bill $165.

Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) and Yesli Vega (R-Coles) made a proposal last month for a budget that would cut the tax rate to account for increased property values.

Candland said Tuesday their proposal would mean a rate of $1.085 per every $100 of assessed value.

“We have to do that,” Supervisor Lawson said during the meeting. “That’s our responsibility with this job.”

For the first time, the board heard from residents through phone calls or video conferencing as public health officials recommend people remain at least six feet away from each other and avoid gatherings of ten people or more during the pandemic.

About a dozen residents asked the board not to raise real estate tax rates, which made up the bulk of speakers.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors has big decisions to make before its April 28 meeting to adopt the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The board is set to meet April 21 to consider changes to the proposed budget.

“It is not a great place to be our freshman year, but I think all of us are capable,” Supervisor Andrea Bailey (D-Potomac) said.

Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park have 570 people who tested positive for COVID-19, with 60 of them needing hospitalization, according to April 14 data from the Virginia Department of Health.

Ten people in the county have died due to COVID-19, as of Monday.

Vega said during the meeting her aunt in New York died last week because of the virus.

“It’s hard not to be able to say goodbye,” she said.

Public health measures that aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus have caused severe disruptions to the economy, including many people who have lost jobs or have received reductions in work.

The county projects to see $14.2 million less in revenue in Fiscal Year 2021. It also expects to receive $2.4 million less in revenue before June 30, when Fiscal Year 2020 ends.

Martino proposed to increase the computer and equipment tax rate by 10 cents to $1.35 per every $100 of assessed value.

In the past, the board has considered raising this tax rate due to the large number of data centers in the county that pay the bulk of this tax.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

 

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