- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Fairfax County taxpayers yesterday gave the Board of Supervisors an earful at a public hearing about the increase in property-value assessments that are a part of next year's budget.
"You and your predecessors have consistently raised taxes every year for the last 33 years that I have lived, with perhaps one or two exceptions," said John Theon of McLean. "The real estate tax is becoming as regular and predictable as the season. … I always thought after my mortgage was retired, I would own my home. But the fact is Fairfax County owns my home."
Rex Turner of Vienna said: "Let me suggest to you, instead of inventing new tax schemes, the Board of Supervisors should offset the projected rise in real estate taxes. The real estate tax rate should be reduced from $1.23 per $100 of assessed value, to $1.06 per $100 of assessed value. … And this is just the minimum this board should consider reducing the tax rate, given the outrageous tax increases over the last six years."
The county's nearly $4 billion budget will be revised and voted on for final approval this month. The property-tax rate is $1.06 per $100 of assessed value, but to offset inflation, the county budget calls for raising the rate 17 cents per $100 of assessed value. The difference would bring an additional $197 million to the jurisdiction.
Board Chairman Katherine K. Hanley, a Democrat, said it is unlikely the rate would be restored to its previous level, but that the proposed $1.23 rate is not cast in stone.
"At $1.06, we would have to cut $197 million from the budget. I think that is a bit much," Mrs. Hanley said after the hearing.
More than two dozen taxpayers told the board yesterday that the tax increase is not necessary and that if the higher rate is approved, some residents will be forced out of their homes because they won't be able to afford their real estate taxes.
"After living in my home all these years, my wife and I are being threatened with being taxed out," said Mr. Theon.
Fairfax County's tax-assessment office reported last month that the overall value of homes in the region is up 16.3 percent this year over last year.
"I agree with my new assessment, but it doesn't help me unless we move," said Frank Glorioso of Vienna.
Mr. Glorioso said he moved to Virginia from Maryland seven years ago in part because of the tax benefits associated with living on the other side of the Potomac River. "I don't think it's fair that we have this hidden tax increase," he said.
"I want to encourage Fairfax County to do what most of its citizens already have to do: live [within] its means," said Mark Jesten of Alexandria. "I would advocate that you lower the tax rate to $1.06 and that you also create a volunteer program so that pro-tax zealots who wish to pay more in taxes than those who don't will have the chance."
Not all those who spoke out yesterday opposed the property-assessment increase, saying the region will suffer if the proposed increase does not occur.
"You need to remind citizens what they gain by living here, but what they will lose if you make these cuts in the budget," said Robert Griendling of Fairfax. "I urge you to make it clear the exact programs you would have to cut if we lowered taxes. Everyone says 'lower taxes,' but they don't say where to cut."

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