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Dig deeper, Fairfax homeowners – tax bills are headed higher

County Executive Bryan Hill proposes hike in tax rate to go with higher assessments

Fairfax County households on average would pay about $524 more under the fiscal 2025 budget proposed Feb. 20 by County Executive Bryan Hill.

The budget calls for a 4-cent (6.79%) increase in the real-estate-tax rate, $148.1 million more to compensate county employees and a $165 million (6.8%) transfer increase to the school system – nearly $90 million less than school officials are seeking.

The county’s real-estate-tax base rose just 2.73 percent this year, noted Hill, who called this year’s budget “challenging.”

The proposed tax rate would be $1.135 per $100 assessed value, up from $1.095 in 2023. The county also charges 3.25 cents per $100 assessed value to pay for stormwater infrastructure.

Clifton, Herndon and Vienna residents pay town real-estate taxes as well as Fairfax County’s. The county also has several other tax districts, including ones in Tysons to support infrastructure and in McLean to finance the community center there.

Each cent on the tax rate equates to $32.32 million in revenue. If supervisors approved a 4-cent rate increase, factoring in higher assessments, the county would collect about $356.14 million more in real-estate taxes this year.

Supervisors on March 5 will advertise a maximum real-estate-tax rate for the year. When they adopt the budget, they may select a higher rate, but not a lower one. The board in the past often has advertised a higher rate to provide flexibility in budget negotiations, then adopted a rate at or slightly below the one proposed by the county executive.

The county’s commercial-property values were down 1.24 percent. The office-vacancy rate was 17.2 percent at the end of 2023, up from 16.7 percent a year earlier, with 21.6 million square feet out of 119.5 million square feet remaining empty, all of which contributes to lower valuations.

About 1 million square feet of office space is under construction in the county, much of it near Metrorail’s Silver Line.

General county workers and non-uniformed public-safety employees would receive 2-percent market-rate adjustments under the new budget, or less than half of the 4.1 percent as calculated under the current formula.

Those employees also would be eligible for performance, merit and longevity increases, but the proposal did not detail those.

Under new collective-bargaining agreements, firefighters, 911 dispatchers and police officers would get 3-percent salary-scale adjustments and police in addition would receive a 2-percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Increased retirement-contribution rates also would require the county to spend another $28.57 million.

The proposed $165 million transfer to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) would amount to 51.4 percent of the county’s general fund budget. Superintendent Michelle Reid’s proposed fiscal 2025 budget requests a $254.03 million transfer from the county, a 10.5 percent increase that Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay deemed “unrealistic.”

The budget would set aside $10 million more for operating support of Metrorail and an additional $2.15 million for the Fairfax Connector bus system.

The budget has a $3.83 million balance for supervisors to spend at their discretion.

Hill’s budget calls for elimination of 84 vacant positions, which will contribute toward the total of $36 million in savings and revenue enhancements.

Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield), the body’s lone Republican, afterthe presentation decried escalating county spending, saying the real-estate taxes burden already had jumped 56 percent since 2015.

“The latest census data show that domestically more people are voting with their feet and leaving Fairfax County than are coming here,” he said. “Our surveys show the high cost of living and ever-increasing taxes for reduced services are driving our residents to leave.”

Following public hearings April 16 through 18 and a markup session on April 30, the board will adopt the budget May 7 and it will take effect July 1 at the start of fiscal 2025.