- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin's proposed $2.46 billion budget for 2002-2003 released Monday holds the line on real estate and personal property taxes, but with property values soaring, almost every homeowner in the county will see an increase in his or her tax bill.
The $2.46 billion budget is up about 5 percent over this year's, an increase made possible by the continued growth in the county's real estate values.
On Monday, the Fairfax County Office of Tax and Revenue mailed out 311,580 real estate assessment notices about 95 percent of the county's total number of assessments.
Those tax bills will be sharply higher this year for most property owners, with the average household paying $470 more than last year.
According to the county's budget planners, the average value of a residential property in Fairfax is $272,943 an increase of almost $40,000 in one year. With the tax rate still set at $1.23 per $1,000 valuation in Mr. Griffin's budget, the tax bill on a typical home will jump from $2,887 to $3,357.
That kind of increase has some homeowners calling for tax relief.
Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance, said his group wants to see county leaders trim the budget and find a way to cut the tax rate so that property owners are not hit so hard.
"If you cut the real estate tax rate by 17 cents, from $1.23 to $1.06, you'd have the same tax bill as last year," said Mr. Purves.
Merni Fitzgerald, director of public affairs for Fairfax County, questioned Mr. Purves' math it's unrealistic, she said.
"I am not sure where they pulled 17 cents from. Was it from a hat?" Mrs. Fitzgerald said.
Mrs. Fitzgerald added that while almost all of the county's property owners will see a jump in assessed value, the increase is less than 20 percent for two-thirds of those properties. Only 4 percent of properties will see increases of more than 30 percent.
The higher assessments will result in an estimated 7 percent more revenue for the county.
"We would have had negative revenue growth in the county," Mrs. Fitzgerald said. "The only reason we have it is because of the increase in assessments."
The county's explanations weren't good enough for homeowners who spoke to reporters after Mr. Griffin's press conference at the Fairfax County Government Center.
"We actually have more money than we thought we had. We are even more awash in funds than I thought we were," said James Parmalee, chairman of Republicans United for Tax Relief. He added that there being no new taxes did not mean residents were not paying more.
"If it comes out of my wallet, then it's a tax," he said.
A little more than half of the budget will go to education, something grass-roots activists said is unnecessary.
"Many social programs, including school programs, are failing," said Mr. Purves. He suggested several ways to cut costs in education, including eliminating the seven-period day and cutting back special services for learning-disabled children.


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