- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

A group of Fairfax County, Va., residents upset with the recent surge in property-value assessments is calling on county officials to give taxpayers some relief by lowering the current real-estate tax rate.

The residents are asking the county Board of Supervisors to lower the current $1.23 tax rate per $100 assessed value to $1.12 or even 88 cents so taxpayers could be compensated for the 11 percent increase in assessments.

Lowering the tax rate to 88 cents would save a household an average of $800 annually, said Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, one of the groups that sponsored an anti-tax rally last night outside the Fairfax County Government Center.

"It's simple. We want our money back," said James Parmelee, president of www.NorthernVirginiaGOP.com, another group that sponsored the rally. "We just feel we should be compensated for paying such high assessments. If the county lowers the rate, then we would have to pay less in taxes and actually save some money."

With the latest assessments, the average homeowner saw his bill go up an average of $288.25, an amount that families like Jessica and Joe Doyle say they can barely afford to pay.

Mrs. Doyle, a nurse who lives in Mason District, said her family will need to borrow money from their families or work more hours to pay the bill. Last year, their house was assessed at $164,862, and they paid $2,028 in taxes. The house is valued at $180,574 this year, and the Doyles will pay $2,221 in taxes.

"It's unfortunate, but what else can we do?" Mrs. Doyle asked yesterday. "We just didn't think we were going to get slammed like we did."

Counties regularly reassess property values to make sure they are close to the actual market value.

Some county taxpayers said the surge in assessments is an indirect tax increase.

Most of the supervisors could not be reached for comment yesterday because they were in public hearings for most of the day. But some of them, including Chairman Katherine K. Hanley, repeatedly have said the 11 percent increase in assessments does not constitute a tax increase. The $1.23 tax rate, Mrs. Hanley has said, will remain the same.

The proposed $2.3 billion fiscal 2002 budget, on which the Board of Supervisors is currently holding a series of public hearings, does not recommend increasing the current tax rate. The final budget adoption will take place April 30.

But as a result of the latest assessment, Mr. Parmelee said, the county would get an estimated $60 million in revenue from the 11 percent increase.

"We're paying higher taxes for crowded schools and crowded roads," Mr. Purves said. "It is a tax increase in a sense because we're paying more and more money because of the assessments."

For example, a homeowner who last year paid $2,560 in taxes on a $208,000 home would now pay $2,848 because the home has been assessed at $232,000. In 1999, the same homeowner paid $2,407 in taxes for the same home that back then was valued at $196,000, Mr. Purves said.

"Raising assessments is a backdoor way to getting more money from us," said Marjorie Blakely, state chairman of the Virginia Young Republicans, another group that co-hosted last night's rally.

"The county board tells us that they didn't raise taxes. Yes, they did. They are the ones who raised the rate of assessments, so yeah, they did raise our taxes," Ms. Blakely said.

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