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PWC Board keeps same tax rate and revenue split with PWC schools

It was standing room only in McCoart Government Center May 6 as Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 to keep a flat real estate tax rate at 1.112 per $100 of assessed valuation and to retain the existing revenue sharing arrangement it has with county schools.

Schools get 57.23 percent of the county’s general operating budget, but some supervisors favored lowering that percentage.

Voting to keep the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2017 were Corey Stewart, board chairman and at-large member; Ruth Anderson, Occoquan District; Marty Nohe, Coles District; Jeanine Lawson, Brentsville District, and Pete Candland, Gainesville District.

Voting against the proposal were John Jenkins, Neabsco District; Frank Principi, Woodbridge District, and Maureen Caddigan, Potomac District.

In a May 7 press release, Candland praised the board for turning down a “3.88 percent tax increase that was proposed by the county executive.” He said that increase would have hiked county spending by $90 million in new spending and brought an average 4 percent tax increase to homeowners in each of the next five years.

“That 3.88 percent tax increase would have allowed county spending to go up nearly 11 percent in FY17. The hardworking families in Prince William County are not getting increases in incomes anywhere near that outrageous amount,” the press release noted.

More than 40 people addressed the board during the public hearing, most favoring keeping the flat tax and fully funding the schools.

A Montclair music teacher reported she believes the $125,000 to be spent on a Steinway concert grand piano for the new Colgan High School under construction on VA 234 is “the best of the best,” American made and a good investment. She added other schools in the district also have Steinways.

A Coles District man blasted a $90 million increase in the budget proposed by acting county executive Chris Martino, saying Martino “forgets whom he works for.”

New county resident Martin Martinez pointed out he moved here after being taxed out of Alexandria. He asked supervisors to “keep the tax rate where it is.”

Dumfries resident Mary Cook said her property assessment went up $20,000 this year. She pointed out if taxes go up, her family may be forced to move.

Bill Petrak said that Caddigan, Nohe and Stewart had voted last year to increase taxes. He remarked, “God gave you a free will,” and that he plans “to spend a lot of time reminding you who you are. Do what you promised to do.”

George Dodge, Coles District, noted federal employees only received a three percent salary increase over five years. He asked for a flat tax.

Barbara Dodge, Coles District, contended the school district “could buy 10 Kawais” for the money planned for the Steinway grand piano. She asserted that “the schools want $1.8 billion, but only 49 percent of what the school gets goes to instruction.” She decried what she said are lower county SAT scores and that teachers are buying class material using their own funds.

O’Reilly Carter, a middle school teacher, said science classes are overcrowded, teachers are buying supplies and food for their students and “there’s no copy paper.”

School board member Diane Raulston said she would investigate the copy paper shortage.

Richard Jessie suggested increasing the tax rate and asked supervisors to “lead by example” in cutting their office staffs and monthly newsletters.

Bill Card spoke against the Steinway purchase and the “absurdity of changing a school name.” The school board recently decided to change the name of Mills Godwin Middle School at an estimated cost of $500,000. He said the price of the piano could pay “for one and a half or two school teachers. We gave them (the school district) money to reduce class size, and they bought a piano.” He said the schools have money to hire teachers, but are not doing it.

Card also suggested taking $150,000 from Hylton Performing Arts Center.“If residents are not supporting the center, you shouldn’t either,” Card said.

Woodbridge resident Greg Reynolds said he is on a fixed income, but supports a tax increase.

Brentsville District resident Chris Crawford contended the school district does not have a revenue problem, but does have a spending problem.

Mac Haddow, Gainesville District, spoke for a flat tax rate. “County government has to live in the same economic world as citizens. He also was against spending $650,000 for a study to see if there are too many workers at Kelly Administration Building.

A teacher from Yorkshire Elementary School was in tears as she told how she pays for snacks three days a week for her students.

Lillie Jessie, school board vice chairman, told supervisors that they legally cannot tell the school district how to spend its budget. She pointed out the school board does not overspend and that supervisors approve new subdivisions.

“You cause the fire, and expect us to put it out,” she contended. She added there are 217 trailers in use at county schools.

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