Prince William County property taxes to stay flat in new budget

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The Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved the county’s fiscal 2024 budget Tuesday night, cutting the real estate tax rate to keep the average homeowner’s bill flat and approving major pay raises for county employees.

After weeks of public input and budget mark-up sessions, supervisors cut the real estate tax rate to 96.6 cents per $100 of assessed value, down from $1.03 this fiscal year. Due to rising assessments, the average homeowner’s tax bill will be the same.

At the same time, the board agreed to increase the so-called “data center tax” on business computer equipment and peripherals — a tax paid by all businesses but disproportionately by data centers — to $2.15 per $100, well above the $1.80 rate called for in an increase schedule approved by the board in 2021.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Between increased revenue projections and the raise in the data centers tax, the board had enough to go even bigger on county employee pay raises, meant to bring pay more in line with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions and help with recruitment and retention.

In particular, police, fire and rescue and social services have had staffing shortages, and County Executive Chris Shorter’s proposed raises — close to what was recommended in a county-funded pay study — were meant to help, offering 7.2% increases for adult detention center workers, 9% raises for general government staffers and 9.8% bumps for fire and sheriff’s workers. Police had already been taken care of with a 17.5% raise approved in December.

But at the board’s final mark-up session last Thursday, the board went beyond what Shorter had recommended. A proposal from Board Chair Ann Wheeler approved by the board used leftover revenue to fund 15% increases for public safety officers (excluding police) and 9% raises for general government employees, with the raises being effective retroactive to April 1.

“I think we want to have a well-compensated workforce,” Wheeler said Thursday. “The whole idea of this budget was to compensate our workforce.”

Elsewhere in the spending plan, two new veterinary staff positions at the county’s animal clinic were funded, as was a 25% increase to the county’s salary supplement for public defender’s office employees (the county offers a small salary supplement as those employees are paid by the state). Public safety communications staffers — namely, 911 operators — also received a 15% raise.

New money was also added for reforestation initiatives, median landscaping and parks and recreation maintenance.

Most resolutions needed to approve the new budget and tax rates were passed on a 5-3 party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Supervisor pay bumps

Outside of items specifically amended by the board, Shorter’s budget was approved as proposed, and that includes a major pay increase for the supervisors themselves.

The lowest among all Northern Virginia governing bodies, supervisor pay in Prince William hasn’t increased since 2011 and can’t be increased again until 2027, prompting Shorter to propose raising annual district supervisor salaries from $43,422 to $74,282 and the chair’s salary from $49,452 to $84,739.

The increases will kick in with the seating of a new board after elections this fall and would put the county at the median of Northern Virginia’s governing bodies for the current fiscal year.

Saying that he sensed such dramatic increases might be unpopular, Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye offered two compromises during an April 20 mark-up session. His first proposal would have given supervisors the same pay increase that the average county employee has seen since 2011. Then he suggested limiting the pay increase to just the 9% that general government employees were getting in the coming fiscal year.

Both proposals died, with only Wheeler and Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry in support. With no other changes offered, the final budget will feature the raises proposed by Shorter.

Party-line splits

The board’s three Republicans — Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega and Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir — pushed hard for across-the-board reductions to Shorter’s proposal and further reductions in the real estate tax rate.

Weir proposed taking 2% — and then 1% — out of every county agency’s proposed budget except for public safety.

“If you take every agency except the public safety divisions and you reduce the general fund support, you save a little over $2.7 million. If the agencies in this government can’t find a 1% efficiency, then we don’t have the right people in place,” Weir said.

He and Vega also proposed dropping the real estate rate to 94.7 cents and 96.4 cents, but all of those proposals fell on party-line votes.

Boddye pushed back on further tax cuts, saying any more reductions would cut into the county’s allocation to Prince William County Public Schools, which he said also needs to provide raises for their employees.

Lawson, who is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Wheeler for the at-large chair post in the fall election, proposed bumping public safety worker pay by 17.5% and giving general government employees just 7% raises.

“The reality of it is that the public safety folks have tougher schedules, never have the opportunity to work remotely and the risks are much higher. And I frankly think that their pay scales, for that reason, are different,” Lawson said.

But the Democrats on the board held firm on the raises outlined by Shorter and Wheeler, saying that they could increase compensation for staff and keep most tax bills flat — save for some increases to the solid waste fee and the fire levy.

“We have a zero increase in our residential tax bill,” Wheeler said. “And I think that’s an amazing thing for the first time in 15 years.”

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


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