Northern Virginia panhandling town hall sees leaders discuss concerns, solutions

August 21, 2023


By Melissa Howell

Panhandling has become a growing concern among Northern Virginia residents, and local leaders hope to find a solution that will create safer streets and provide adequate social services.

From addiction, to basic needs and more organized panhandling groups, Prince William County Supervisor Jeannine Lawson said during a recent town hall that officials have received more than 500 calls related to panhandling concerns last year, and they expect that number to be even higher by the end of the year.

“We’re certainly enduring a lot of safety concerns as it relates to the panhandlers and the public,” she said.

Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, also one of the event’s organizers, said that from November 2022 to July of this year, nearly 240 panhandlers were reported to Fairfax County police and 58 of those involved criminal acts by panhandlers.

One resident shared a disturbing incident claiming they were spat on and their vehicle was repeatedly kicked.

Herrity said that while more can be done, they are working to make more resources available, including housing and mental health services, all geared toward finding a more permanent solution.

“The county’s office of public affairs recently launched a public education campaign on panhandling, but no other efforts have moved forward,” he added, pointing out that providing money is not the solution and may have a negative impact.

Lawson said they are working with law enforcement agencies to implement a multi-prong approach, which includes social services, community services and transportation.

Loudoun County officials discussed a current ordinance that stops interference with traffic while still taking into consideration the rights of panhandlers.

Maj. Greg Ahlemann said the ordinance passed in 2013, and was revised in 2018. Law enforcement have made ordinance enforcement the last resort and have instead prioritized education. So far this year, they have not issued any summons.

Supervisors Herrity and Lawson said they would like to see similar solutions in their counties.

“I would really like Prince William to take a strong look at what’s working in Loudoun County,” said Lawson.

Officials say panhandling is a growing problem in Northern Virginia

August 18, 2023


By Katie Lusso

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — A “What should Northern Virginia be doing about panhandling” regional town hall was held virtually Thursday night.

It was organized by Prince William County Supervisor Jeannine Lawson and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity. The two told WUSA9 they often discuss issues and concerns that they receive from their communities and decided they were both receiving a large amount of complaints about one topic in particular; panhandling.

For 90 minutes, they shared where things currently stand in both of their counties. According to Fairfax County, these are the laws when it comes to panhandling:

  • Asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment.
  • Asking for money in public areas, including roadway medians, is not a violation of law.
  • The county monitors legal developments related to panhandling.

Currently, Loudoun County has an ordinance in place regarding panhandling.

“The panhandling ordinance for us it addresses interfering with traffic,” said Major Greg Ahlemann with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office during the meeting.

Both Supervisor Herrity and Supervisor Lawson say they like to have a similar ordinance in their counties. 

During the town hall they heard from dozens of people over the phone, on social media and in emails. 

“A panhandler started spitting on my car,” said one caller.

Someone else wrote “They’re on every single street corner.”

Another person called in and said, “They’re not even panhandling anymore at times, they’re just nuisances at times.”

Both supervisors called it a major issue for their constituents. Supervisor Lawson shared during the town hall that there are three types of panhandling situations, people who truly need the money and are facing economic challenges, people who are feeding their addictions through it and organized panhandlers. 

She shared that Prince William County received more than 500 calls for service last year regarding panhandling concerns. According to Lawson, they’re on track to receive an even higher number by the end of this year.

“There’s no absolutes in panhandling. It ranges from people in need to people who are out there because they want to be. It’s by choice. The only absolute to me is that it’s a public safety issue. It’s dangerous for our residents who are panhandling and our residents in the roadways because one of them is going to get hurt seriously,” said Supervisor Herrity.

WUSA9 spoke to a man named Mark who was standing along Leesburg Pike Thursday afternoon.

Credit: WUSA9

“My sign says help please, jobless, I guess it represents the reality of me today,” he told WUSA9.

He says the last few years have been tough. “In 2018 my taxi cab was run into,” said Mark.

He says he lost his cab because of that crash, and eventually his job. 

“They wouldn’t rent me a cab to go back to work, so I’ve been out here panhandling,” he said Thursday night.

He says it can be stressful and hurtful at times. 

“People turn you down and say things that hurt you,” he said. “It’s stressful for me because it’s never enough. It’s not like a regular paycheck.”

He told WUSA9 he does have a place to stay and for that he is grateful. “I live with my family. So as far as having shelter and something to eat it’s good, but right now I can’t go back to work,” he said.

Panhandling he shared, felt like his only option.

“My money was running low. No one is gonna take care of me. You can go on welfare but they only gonna give you $100 on a food card. $100 on a food card when you gotta pay the rest of the bill, water, gas, electric that’s not gonna cut it,” said Mark.

He shared that he understands the concerns people have. “It’s good for them to be cautious because I’ve heard some people out here, they may reach in the car and take a purse and take off running,” he said.

As for him, he keeps his head low and hopes someone will offer some spare cash. He says he doesn’t harass drivers and understands if they don’t want to roll down their window.

“If you don’t want to give, you don’t have to,” he said.

But asked people to have compassion. “They may get tired of seeing people thinking it’s simple to get another job. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t,” he said.

As for the future of panhandling in Fairfax and Prince William Counties, both supervisors told WUSA9 they plan to present similar ordinances to the one Loudoun County has in place, at their board meetings in September. They also hope to get the state involved in creating a broader way to address it. 

As for what you can do, Fairfax County recommends the following:

  • Refer people who are panhandling – or anyone you see who may be in need – to our county’s social services programs. We have a wide range of services and housing resourcesProvide them with this human services hotline phone number: 703-222-0880.
  • You can also make copies of this handout with information on where and how to obtain critical services, including food and shelter. Have a few copies in your car to give out if you encounter someone who may be in need. 
  • Consider making a donation or volunteering for one of our nonprofit community partners dedicated to assisting our residents in need.
  • Connect with Volunteer Fairfax, as it mobilizes people and resources to meet regional community needs.

One of the programs highlighted during the townhall, was Operation Stream Shield. According to their website they provide part-time, temporary work experience to guests of the Eleanor U. Kennedy Community Shelter, Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter and The Lamb Center to help improve the water quality of local streams.

A Fairfax County Lawmaker Is Pushing To Curb Panhandling – Again

August 18, 2023


By Morgan Baskin

A Fairfax County supervisor’s plan to propose restrictions on panhandling has prompted both ire and some support from Northern Virginia residents, highlighting growing tension about how to address economic insecurity in the region. 

Pat Herrity, a long-serving Republican lawmaker representing the county’s Springfield district, has said he plans on reintroducing an ordinance next month to restrict panhandling that is closely modeled after the policy adopted by neighboring Loudoun County. 

Loudoun’s ordinance bans the exchange of objects between roadways, and allows police officers to cite those who ignore the ordinance after multiple warnings – a policy, boosters say, that jives with case law supporting the notion that panhandling is a protected act of free speech. Herrity has previously floated similar measures that the larger board has declined to adopt, as recently as last fall. 

In an interview with WAMU/DCist, Herrity called panhandling a public safety issue, pointing to what he calls “aggressive” behavior by some people on street corners and in medians. “It’s something I increasingly hear from our residents. I hear about close calls, near misses,” Herrity says. “I hear about the increasingly aggressive nature of some of the people in the medians. I hear, constantly, stories of panhandlers that are actually bringing their children into the medians. And it’s a public safety issue, for their safety, and for the safety of our residents.”

The best available data does not indicate that there is a strong correlation between panhandling and traffic accidents. At the behest of the board, the county executive’s public safety staff studied the effects of panhandling in a report published in July of 2022. The group looked at traffic incidents in areas associated with panhandling across 108 locations, then cross-indexed them with known panhandling locations; of the 35 intersections with the most traffic incidents, only four were reported panhandling locations. (Those include intersections along Braddock Road, Leesburg Pike, and Spring Road.)

“Because these four intersections are also heavily trafficked by vehicles and pedestrians, staff has been unable to find a significant public safety risk related to or stemming from panhandling,” the group wrote. “While panhandling appears dangerous and generates considerable public complaint, available [Fairfax County Police Department] data does not support a determination that panhandlers are more likely to be injured or killed than other pedestrians, or that locations where panhandlers are present have an increased risk of traffic accidents.” 

In a somber virtual town hall held jointly on August 17 by Herrity and Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, the two lawmakers nevertheless argued that anecdotal evidence indicates that panhandling has increased and makes Northern Virginia less safe. (Both Lawson and Herrity are up for reelection this year; Lawson is running for chair of the Prince William County board.) They were joined by a senior member of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to talk about the county’s panhandling ordinance and field questions from callers, who in turn praised and questioned the need for anti-panhandling ordinances in Fairfax and Prince William counties. 

“I like to talk to panhandlers. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and I don’t think the county should make a law against that,” one caller who identified herself as Mary said at the town hall. “What I’m hearing people describe is not panhandling being so much of a problem [as it is] aggressive panhandling or traffic safety. I think you should address that more narrowly. And I also think it’s disingenuous to tell people that the county takes care of everyone’s human needs. I work a lot with lower income people on the [Route 1] corridor and that’s simply not true.”

It’s unclear how the rest of the Fairfax board will metabolize Herrity’s proposal. The chairman of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, Jeffrey McKay, told DCist/WAMU in an emailed statement that an anti-panhandling ordinance “does nothing to get at the root causes” of its target. He added that an ongoing effort by the county to help connect people who panhandle with social services “is a more substantive solution than giving out cash on our roadways.”

“Our entire Board has been advised on multiple occasions that there are significant legal and constitutional challenges with creating an ordinance,” McKay said. “Previous Boards grappled with this issue over many years and have always come to the same conclusion.”

Federal courts across the country, including those in Illinois, Colorado, Florida, and Maine have struck down anti-panhandling laws in recent years, in the wake of a 2015 decision from the Supreme Court ruling that laws curtailing speech must be as narrow as possible. (“Each jurisdiction, as you can imagine, has a slightly different flavor with prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges,” Maj. Greg Ahlemann of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said at the town hall. “So, you know, it would really be unfair for me to comment on what might work specifically [in other counties] and the intricacies there, but this has really been effective for us.”)

The revived conversation about implementing anti-panhandling ordinances across the county comes shortly after the publication of region-wide data indicating that homelessness and economic instability is spiking almost universally across the D.C. region. Loudoun County, which currently has an anti-panhandling ordinance in place, saw a 122% increase in homelessness over the last year; Prince William County saw a 35% increase in homelessness. And roughly one in every thousand Fairfax County residents is now unhoused, per the report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governors. 

“People who panhandle are people who need money, right? And panhandling can make people in the community feel uncomfortable because it’s a reminder that there are people in our community that are in need,” says Joe Fay, executive director of human services nonprofit FACETS, which runs a family homeless shelter on behalf of the county along Route 1. 

“For many of us, the economic impact of the pandemic has passed. But for many people in our community, it’s in some ways gotten tougher,” Fay says. “There really is a real need in the community. And at the levels where you’re really just on the edge of making it or not, it’s even more challenging than it’s been.”

Fay tells DCist/WAMU that, pre-pandemic, FACETS served about 70 hot meals per night at distribution centers in Fairfax County. That jumped to 250 meals per night during the pandemic, then petered out again. But after expanded federal food assistance came to an end, the demand for meals from FACETS jumped once more, Fay says, rising again to about 200 meals per night – not just from unhoused people, but from families with children facing food insecurity, too. 

“We’d like to see the community decide that having shelter is a right[.] That everybody should have shelter; everybody should have food. And right now, we have a waiting list for a single shelter,” Fay says. “And once we do that, I think then maybe it’s an appropriate time to talk about whether panhandling should be allowed or not. But I think we should really challenge ourselves to step up [until then].”

Northern Virginia Supervisors Host Virtual Town Hall on Panhandling

August 14, 2023

Bristow Beat


Thursday, August 17, 2023


7:00 PM – 8:30 PM


Erica Tredinnick
Office of Supervisor
Jeanine Lawson
Office, 703-324-1114

Submitted by Supervisor Jeanine Lawson

Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity Host a virtual town hall to address panhandling in Northern Virginia, called, “What Should Northern Virginia Be Doing About Panhandling.” 

Virtual Town Hall is scheduled for August 17, 7- 8:30 p.m. It will be broadcast live on Channel 15 (Fairfax TV) and streamed on Facebook Live (see Supervisor Lawson’s Facebook page.)

In their dedication to addressing pressing concerns within the community, Prince William Supervisor Jeanine Lawson and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity are pleased to extend an invitation to a virtual town hall event centered around the escalating issue of panhandling in Northern Virginia.

Panhandling has prompted community leaders from Fairfax County and Prince William to come together to explore viable solutions. The virtual town hall will provide a platform for an open dialogue among residents aiming to tackle this multifaceted issue with a shared approach.

“Panhandling impacts our community on multiple levels, and addressing it requires collective effort. This town hall presents an opportunity for us to come together, learn about available resources, and collaborate on finding effective solutions,” Supervisor Lawson stated.

With a strong commitment to community well-being, Supervisor Lawson is actively engaged in finding innovative ways to tackle tough issues and enhance the quality of life for all PWC residents.

The event will include an interactive session where residents are encouraged to share their valuable perspectives, ideas, and feedback. The ultimate goal is to forge a path toward a safer and more supportive Northern Virginia.

Residents interested in participating in this crucial conversation can tune in to the live broadcast on Channel 16 or join the streaming on Facebook Live.

Questions and feedback can be submitted by calling 703-324-1114, emailing inquiries to [email protected], or engaging through comments on the Facebook Live stream.

For further information, please contact: Erica Tredinnick Office of Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville Magisterial District, Prince William County.)

Fairfax County supervisor pushes for panhandling ordinance

August 2, 2023

DC News Now

By Hayley Milon

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Supervisor Pat Herrity will once again urge the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to weigh an ordinance regulating panhandling.

Panhandling is the act of asking people on the street for food or money. The Fairfax County Police Department receives hundreds of calls involving panhandling each year.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Herrity said. “It’s only a matter of time before someone’s going to get hurt pretty bad.”

Herrity has put forth similar proposals several times — most recently in July of 2022. The county conducted a safety study, examining 108 panhandling locations and intersections that see high vehicular collisions.

“Of the top 35 intersections with the most traffic accidents, only four were reported as panhandling locations,” reads a memo from Thomas Arnold, deputy county executive for safety and security. “Because these four intersections are also heavily trafficked by vehicles and pedestrians, staff cannot draw a firm conclusion that panhandling contributes to a number of vehicular collisions.

Herrity and Prince William County Supervisor Jeaniene Lawson (Brentsville District) are holding a town hall meeting with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to discuss panhandling. Herrity said that in Loudoun, a similar ordinance has been effective.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has successfully fought a number of similar ordinances in courts, chiefly arguing that they violate the right to free speech.

Eden Heilman, legal director for ACLU of Virginia, said that an ordinance must leave different ways to pass money or goods on to a person in need (e.g., a driver pulling over to the side of the road, getting out of their car and giving items to panhandlers).

“It has to be narrowly tailored to serve a specific government interest. For example, if the government is concerned about people getting in traffic accidents or potentially the flow of traffic or safety, there are ways to tailor ordinances to specifically address those concerns,” she said. “If it’s just a really broad blanket ban on soliciting or asking for money, then those of very suspect of First Amendment principals.”

Fairfax County has a robust program aimed at providing essential services and job search assistance called “Those in Need.” “Operation Stream Shield” has graduated over 2,200 people into full-time jobs. The Office of Public Affairs also conducted a campaign to educate the public on alternative resources, discouraging people from giving to panhandlers.

Herrity plans to reintroduce his ordinance proposal in September, after the August 17 town hall meeting.

How Fairfax County will deploy tablets to help with behavioral health response plan

August 1, 2023


By Matthew Torres

FAIRFAX, Va. — Officials in Fairfax County are planning to start a new pilot program that would equip patrol officers with tablets during behavioral health calls.

The ‘Telehealth Pilot’ is expected to start at two police stations in Reston and McLean before the end of the year, according to Lt. Joanna Culkin of the Fairfax County Police Crisis Intervention Team.

The current plan is to test out four tablets.

In case police respond to a call that involves an individual needing behavioral health assistance, the officer can use the tablet to call an expert with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Service Board (CSB).

“They can link them through the tablet and have that assessment,” Culkin told WUSA9. “We’re trying to expand that reach in the community.”

“One of the great things about it is that it’s not very resource intense,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay added. 

The latest plan is part of the Co-Responder Teams, a program that pairs up a behavioral health expert with an officer trained in crisis intervention on mental health calls. The teams are one section that make up the Fairfax Behavior Health Crisis Response System, which also includes 911, mobile crisis units, and the regional crisis call center (988).

The Co-Responder program currently has three teams. Two of the teams work seven days a week from 12 p.m. to midnight while the third is only operating three days a week between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

In a presentation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, CSB said the plan is to launch a fourth team in a few months.

“Once we get our full teams up and running, we will have coverage across the county,” added Culkin. “Already they are responding all over the county, but it will be easier to get that coverage across the county.”

Since the pilot program started in 2021, there were close to 1300 responses. The goal is to “increase timely on-scene assessment and de-escalation of behavioral health crises, increase linkages to behavioral health services and supports, and decrease criminal justice involvement and arrests.”

New data as of June 30 showed over 50% of calls were resolved in the field, approximately 30% of responses resulted in a diversion from a potential arrest and/or hospitalization, 26% resulted in a referral to a higher level of care, and 17% resulted in an Emergency Custody Order and/or Temporary Detention Order.

The program is also working to create a new follow up system where a clinician and someone with lived experience connects with the person need helping to assure proper services are available.

However, as addressing mental health calls improves in the county, there is the hurdle of staffing shortages. There is still a deficit of 200 police officers in Fairfax County. Supervisor Pat Herrity said he would like to see every patrol officer complete crisis intervention training. By the end of the year, 42% should be trained, per FCPD.

In addition, there are concerns from police and county leaders about the limited number of beds in crisis receiving centers.

“We’re really having challenges now as to where to put people in the facilities,” Herrity said. “I think we got an early start on this, and I think mental health is the issue of the decade. Once we solve the facility piece, we’re a long way down the road.”

County diverts money to improve safety on Lee Chapel Road

July 28, 2023

Fairfax Times

By Taneika Duhaney

Lee Chapel Road in Fairfax Station was thrust into the spotlight earlier this year when two South County High School students were killed. A third was critically injured in a single-vehicle crash on Jan. 10. In the aftermath; community members created a petition. Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax), the Virginia Department of Transportation, and multiple community leaders hosted a town hall calling for meaningful safety improvement. 

“The Board unanimously approved my motion to direct Fairfax County Department of Transportation to look at eliminating the hills on Lee Chapel Road and potential sources of funding for the project,” tweeted Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity after the accident. 

Last Tuesday, the “Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to transfer $5M from another project (Shirley Gate Road extension) to cover more than half of the estimated $9M of construction cost,” according to 7NewsDC.

The funding would address improvements previously suggested by Herrity in 2015 and again in 2017, but they were shelved due to funding limitations. The approval will remove two hills, widen both lanes and add a shoulder on each side of the road. The project, which will not start until 2026, is expected to take 18 to 36 months if the road is closed to through traffic during the construction period. 

The Board of Supervisors will host a town hall in September to solicit community input.

County board redirects funds to remove hills from Fairfax Station road where teens died in crash

July 25, 2023


By Angela Woolsey

Fairfax County plans to remove hills that limit driver visibility on Lee Chapel Road (via Google Maps)

In the wake of a fatal crash earlier this year, Fairfax County intends to get rid of the hills that make Lee Chapel Road near Fairfax Station so harrowing to navigate.

Eliminating the two hills has emerged as “the most prudent” mid-term option for improving safety on the 1-mile stretch between Ox Road (Route 123) and Fairfax County Parkway, where two teens were killed and another seriously injured in a crash on Jan. 10, according to Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.

To fund the project’s estimated $9 million cost, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff today (Tuesday) to take away $5 million from the planned Shirley Gate Road extension, which is fully funded but not expected to start construction until 2026.

“They are both very important projects…but I think it’s critical we move forward with Lee Chapel safety improvements, and this allows that to happen,” Herrity said, noting that county staff have said the shift in funding won’t delay the Shirley Gate project.

The county is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Del. Kathy Tran, state Sen. George Barker and other partners to fund the remainder of the Lee Chapel project and “restore full funding to Shirley Gate as quickly as possible,” Herrity’s joint board matter with Board Chairman Jeff McKay and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck says.

January’s fatal crash was the third on the scrutinized segment of Lee Chapel Road in less than 20 years, following deadly crashes in 2005 and 2015. The victims in all three crashes were teenagers.

Seeking to improve visibility for drivers, Herrity first proposed eliminating the hills in 2017 as part of a plan to widen the two-lane road to four lanes. The project was included in the county’s Transportation Priorities Plan (TPP) but got dropped after Virginia redirected regional transportation funds to Metro.

After January’s crash renewed calls for safety improvements from the community, VDOT and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation evaluated three options: remove both hills, remove just the larger hill or build the first leg of the Lee Chapel Road widening.

Removing both hills and constructing two 11-foot-wide travel lanes and a 6-foot-wide shoulder on each side of the road was “the alternative that appears to be the most prudent from a funding, timeline, and community support standpoint,” Herrity said.

“Only very preliminary design work has been done, so we are not at the level of design where we can say to what extent private and public property would be impacted, including trees,” Herrity’s office told FFXnow, noting that the $9 million cost estimate assumes VDOT will allow Lee Chapel to be fully closed during construction.

The proposal will be presented to the public at a town hall meeting with Tran and Barker in September, though the exact date hasn’t yet been settled.

At the board meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Alcorn noted that a process to update the TPP will start in the next few months, but Herrity said his board matter is intended to get the Lee Chapel project started sooner.

While the shift of funds was unanimously approved, some supervisors expressed trepidation about the possibility of the move jeopardizing the Shirley Gate extension, which will add a two-lane road linking the existing Braddock Road intersection to Fairfax County Parkway.

The reassurances that the Shirley Gate project won’t be delayed assume that the county will find a new source to replace the transferred $5 million, Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said.

“It’s more important today, given the direction that George Mason University is heading in terms of some pretty intense development, including a stadium complex on their west campus,” Walkinshaw said. “The Shirley Gate improvement is really the only transportation improvement happening anywhere in that area, so I would be deeply, deeply concerned about a potential delay.”

Since the Shirley Gate project is still in the design phase, the county is hopeful that it’ll be able to find the needed funding in the coming years, a FCDOT staff member said.

Herrity said he also hopes that the state will help fund the $4 million still be needed for the Lee Chapel project so it won’t affect other county projects.

While “unusual,” McKay agreed with Herrity that reallocating some funds to Lee Chapel is warranted given “the magnitude” of the safety issues and the need to get the planning process started.

“It’s extraordinary, certainly out of turn and certainly being done to deal with a major problem in the community, but not being done to try to hinder the progress we’re making on any other transportation project in the county,” McKay said.

Fairfax Co. retirees hit by higher taxes amid soaring property values

July 17, 2023

DC News Now

By Hayley Milon

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Homeowners in Fairfax County will see a 7% increase in taxes this year, thanks to higher home valuations.

Tax bills, which reflect home valuations rising 9% and tax rates being cut by 2%, are due by July 28.

“We’re literally taxing our seniors out of the county. (The) demographics show that more people have left Fairfax County… each year in the last 10 years than have come to Fairfax County,” Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield District) said.

Herrity proposed an alternative tax plan, under which taxes would’ve risen 5%. He said his office has been inundated with questions and complaints from constituents about tax bills.

“50% over the last 10 years, you know, almost 7% this year,” Herrity said.

Herrity said most people don’t see their tax bill because payments are built into mortgages; but for homeowners with no loans who owe a lump sum annually, tax fluctuations make a substantial impact on household budgets.

John Kostin, who retired from his federal government job in 2003, lives in the Springfield District and said his tax bill was several hundred dollars more than he’d thought it would be.

“What you do? Is cut back on something else. I’m actually not taking a vacation this year,” he said. “Just cutting back on things. Because, you know, my pension isn’t going up.”

His friend and fellow Springfield District resident John Reflo said retirees are fleeing the area.

“A lot of my friends have left the area,” Reflo said. “Many people here are on federal retirement, which goes up with inflation. But on the other hand, inflation has gone up a lot more.”

Herrity said the county should prioritize filling vacant office space to drive tax revenue. He added that he opposed budgetary boosts to affordable housing and to school district administrative positions.

“The real problem is an unrestrained spending problem by this Board of Supervisors,” he said.

He added that affordable housing strains homeowners.

“I mean, we are building basically luxury housing for a select group of people and we trap them in there because if they don’t, their incomes grow. They have to go into worse housing. So, they there’s no incentive to grow out of that tax subsidy,” he said.

Other supervisors have argued that affordable housing is essential to economic growth in the county, and affordable housing projects provide the workforce essential to area businesses. Drainsville District Supervisor John Foust told DC News Now in June that the county is making substantial strides towards its goal of adding 10,000 affordable housing units by 2034.

“We’re very fortunate in Fairfax County to have as strong an economy as we have,” Foust said. “There are very few things that are going to stop us from continuing to have a great economy. One of those things that hang out there would be a lack of housing that’s affordable for our workforce.”

The county offers support for homeowners who meet certain age, income and net worth criteria:

  • If the total combined income is $60,000 or less, you are eligible for 100% relief.
  • If the total combined income is $60,001 to $70,000, you are eligible for 75% relief. (Does not apply for 2022 and prior year taxes. This bracket will result in 50% relief for tax year 2022.)
  • If the total combined income is $70,001 to $80,000, you are eligible for 50% relief.
  • If the total combined income is $80,001 to $90,000, you are eligible for 25% relief.

‘It keeps increasing’ | Fairfax County homeowners get hit with another tax increase

July 14, 2023


By Nick Minock

FAIRFAX, Va. (7News) — Fairfax County homeowners are getting hit with increases in their property tax payments, which are due on July 28, 2023.

Some homeowners are telling 7 On Your Side it’s getting harder to live in Fairfax County with the rising cost of living.

Allen Wilson and his wife are retired educators living in Fairfax County.

“We’re hanging out with the hope of being able to age in place,” said Wilson.

But rising property taxes are making that difficult. The Wilsons are tutoring to make extra money. But Allen isn’t sure how long they can keep that up. He said retirees in his neighborhood have been pushed out of Fairfax County because of increased taxes.

“They had to [move],” said Wilson. “They could not afford to continue to live here.”

After the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the county budget, the Wilsons were hit with a $11,000 tax bill on their home.

“It keeps increasing,” said Wilson. “Our property taxes this past year were $11,000 and that’s an increase. There’s been an increase every year that we’ve lived here since 1991. Assessments do go up and sometimes the tax rate goes down. But that doesn’t really help people who are living on set incomes like my wife and I. It’s pushing people out of Fairfax County.”

READ | Fairfax County taxes, county employee pay expected to increase in proposed budget

Fairfax County homeowners are getting hit with increases in their property tax payments, which are due on July 28, 2023. (7News)

On Friday, 7News asked Fairfax County Chair Jeff McKay, “Is the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors going to increase property taxes again next year?” and “When, if at all, can Fairfax County homeowners expect a decrease in their property taxes?”

McKay did not respond to 7News in time for this story.

The Wilsons aren’t alone in their concerns.

Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity said people across the county are calling his office — people who are shocked about the increase to their property tax bills.

“They’re just that they’re devastated, especially our seniors that are on fixed incomes,” said Herrity. “We’re looking at inflation and everything else that’s going on. They just don’t need this right now.”

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

Fairfax County homeowners are getting hit with increases in their property tax payments, which are due on July 28, 2023. (7News)

Supervisor Herrity said the rest of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors doesn’t see rising property taxes as an issue.

“They don’t see this as an issue,” said Herrity.

Herrity said property taxes have increased by 50% in the past ten years in Fairfax County.

“Fifty percent increase over the last 10 years is unsustainable,” said Herrity. “People’s incomes aren’t rising by 50% over the last 10 years. We’ve got to work to turn this around. We’ve got to reverse the trend of people voting with their feet and start bringing people back into Fairfax County.”

And Allen has an idea for the board of supervisors to consider.

“To get Fairfax County to offer tax deferment for retirees and disabled people,” said Wilson, who added the property taxes could be paid when a home is sold.

Herrity adds it’s not just homeowners who are feeling the impact of rising taxes, renters are too when landlords pass increases in property taxes onto renters in their leases.

“Renters don’t feel it and see it directly,” said Herrity. “But they are getting hit just as hard. Those that are on fixed incomes are really getting hit hard. We’re literally taxing our seniors out of Fairfax County. And our young graduates who can’t afford to live here either.”

“There could be a big tax decrease,” added Herrity. “So we got to focus on priorities. We gotta get back to focusing on priorities in Fairfax County on the budget. And I put an alternative budget on the table every year that shows the board how we can do it by focusing on priorities including employee wages and police raises, and they haven’t shown interest in that and they haven’t shown interest in the reduction side of that.”