Fairfax County homeowners’ tax bills may go up with new 2024 budget proposal

February 21, 2023


By Nick Minock

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — The 2024 budget battle in Fairfax County has begun with a big focus on taxes.

On Tuesday, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill proposed a flat tax rate for real estate taxes.

But if that’s adopted, that means Fairfax County homeowners will still likely pay higher real estate taxes because real estate tax assessments are soaring, as some supervisors acknowledge.

“It’s a seven percent increase on our residents. It’s totally unacceptable,” said Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity.

Herrity is concerned people are leaving Fairfax County already because of high taxes.

“Many of them are already voting with their feet and leaving,” he said. “They are already facing inflationary pressures. And you throw on top of that a recession, and a huge tax increase, we shouldn’t be doing that to our residents, especially at this time.”

Herrity says taxes don’t have to go up in Fairfax County. He said taxes could go down if the Board of Supervisors wanted to reduce taxes.

“I advocated for spending restraint last year,” said Herrity. “We knew this was coming. Our commercial tax base is in the toilet. And is going to be further reduced. Pandemic spending is coming to an end. We really have to look at spending restraint. And we have to look for ways to be more efficient with our money and focus on our priorities.”

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay says the County Executive’s budget proposal is the first step in a month’s long process.

“We can’t dictate the value of homes. What we can dictate is what the tax rate is,” said McKay. “What the County Executive’s budget had in there was about a $90 million balance that is unused in his budget proposal. And so what we will likely do and what my hope is the board will do is use that $90 million to reduce the tax rate to try to accommodate for some of that assessment increase.”

McKay says that after hearing from Fairfax County residents at upcoming town halls, the Board of Supervisors will likely adopt a different budget.

Budget public hearings are scheduled for April 11 and April 13.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to make changes to the County Executive’s budget proposal on May 2 and is set to finalize the budget on May 9.

The budget proposal includes a $144 million increase for Fairfax County Public Schools.

“This budget funds the request that they [the Fairfax County School Board] made to the Board of Supervisors,” said McKay. “What we don’t know yet is what will happen at the state level with the state budget. And so clearly, if the schools end up with more revenue coming from the state, then my objective will be to make sure that revenue gets to the county and hopefully we can use that for further tax relief. But the County Executive’s proposed budget fully funds the schools, obviously we won’t know the answer to that until the Board of Supervisors adopts their budget, but his proposal includes fully funding the school spending request.”

Meanwhile, Herrity is concerned the proposed budget for Fairfax County Public Schools spends too much money in administrative costs.

“I think we need to look at our enrollment numbers and I think the enrollment projections are a little high that the schools have come forward,” said Herrity. “We need to focus our resources on our teachers and into the classroom and I’m not sure this budget does. This budget puts a lot of money into administration. And we need to get that back into the classroom, onto the teachers and students.”

7News asked McKay if the county intends to raise police officer pay as the Fairfax County Police Department continues to face an officer shortage as several categories of crime rise.

“Clearly there’s going to be a pay increase,” McKay said. “That won’t be known until the board adopts their budget. What the County Executive has proposed is a 2% market rate adjustment for every employee in the county. And then he has fully funded merit step and longevity, which are very important to the police department and those pay increases will depend on where somebody is in our county system, what their rank is, whether they’re eligible for a merit or longevity increase. And so one of the things that I asked for in there is the data. Right now, we’re looking at an average county employee salary increase in the proposed budget of over 4%. But we know no one is average. So, some people will be below that. A lot of people will be above that. And what we don’t know yet and I’ve asked for the data is how that actually affects county employees, including police officers and what ranks so that we can then go in as a board and make potentially further adjustments.”

Last year, 7News (WJLA) was the first to report that FCPD’s police chief declared a personnel emergency amid staff shortages.

Herrity says the County Executive’s proposed budget does not address the police shortage in Fairfax County.

“No, not fully,” said Herrity. “It doesn’t even really start to address it. There’s nothing outwardly that talks about our shortage in police officers, mental health professionals, or paramedics. We really need to look at that.”

Overall, McKay said the proposed budget is a “mixed budget.”

“There’s some good economic indicators in there,” said McKay. “There’s also some challenges ahead. I think anyone in the country is dealing with some of the same challenges that we’re dealing with. Obviously, commercial office space, which is a big revenue driver for the county is down, but we’re seeing some other areas of real estate that are up, I think the biggest challenge for us moving forward is residential assessments continue to go through the roof and we are very well aware of the economic impact that has on our residents. And so, what the board is going to have to do in the weeks and months ahead with the community’s help, is try to strike a balance between making sure we provide services, compensate our employees and maintain our AAA bond rating and fiscal reputation. At the same time, provide tax relief for soaring residential real estate assessments. That’s what I’m going to be focused on like a laser and it’s what we’ve already preliminarily heard from the community.”

You can see the County Executive’s proposed budget for 2024 here: Inflation, Labor and Real Estate Markets Impact County Executive’s FY 2024 Proposed Budget | News Center (fairfaxcounty.gov)