Prince William County Budget

April 25, 2013

After months of budget committee meetings, town halls, and negotiations with fellow Supervisors, I took a stand in yesterday’s Board meeting, voting to support a significantly reduced tax rate from the initially planned 4% tax increase.  The tax rate adopted yesterday is nearly half the originally planned increase, and more importantly we were able to reduce the projected tax increases in the Five Year Plan – down to only 2.5% as the baseline starting point in each of those out years.

The significant reduction of taxes in the Five Year Plan, going from 4% increases down to 2.5% – closer to the rate of inflation – allows the Board to have a more meaningful discussion about reducing county spending.  As a result of this action, we have moved the starting point for any future budget discussions much closer to the Flat Tax Bill that I would like to see.

Equally important, the new budget shifts needed funding to higher priority programs that will measurably improve the quality of life for families in Prince William County.  The budget funds more police officers, an increased presence of resource officers in our schools to add to the protection of our children, and it provides for increased funding for parks, libraries, and services that truly do benefit all of us.

My clear preference going back to last year was to enact a Flat Tax Bill, but it was important to work with the other Supervisors to make sure the needs of the entire county were being met.

I fought hard to increase the share the school system will receive from the Revenue Share Agreement.  Many said the Board would not touch that issue, but in the end there was a clear recognition that the issues of overcrowded classrooms and underpaid teachers needed to be addressed.

We need to do much more in the next few years to increase funding to the schools.  This was just the first step as we try to get more money into our classrooms.  I absolutely believe the School Board needs to do much more to identify lower priority programs that can be reduced in order to increase funding for class size reduction and keeping our best and brightest teachers from being hired away from us by surrounding counties.  My hope is that the School Board will adopt a zero-based budget approach and make the hard choices to use this money to reduce classroom sizes and pay our teachers a more competitive wage

Additionally, we will now begin to set the parameters for future budgets based on actual agency spending rather than continually increasing off of the previously approved budget.  In the past, steep increases to government agencies would be based on what was budgeted in the previous year, not what was actually spent.  Moving forward, we will examine each budget based on the need and performance of each agency in the prior year.  This significant reform has the potential to save us tens of millions of dollars in future budgets.

I’ll admit that I’m not 100% in agreement with everything in this budget, and there are many parts that I have serious concerns about.  But the first step towards fiscal responsibility is to cut the rate of increase.  Change doesn’t come easy, but you have my commitment that I will continue to fight to further reduce our tax burden, while ensuring that we are spending tax dollars on core government services. My hope is that as I continue to make the case for responsible spending we can get to the point where we can talk about actually cutting taxes.  While I would like to see changes in this budget, I feel that this as an important starting point toward real budget reform that is respectful of Prince William County taxpayers.

During this budget season, both the Supervisors and county staff worked in good faith and, in the end, we were able to work together and fund the necessary projects that will continue to make Prince William County a wonderful place to live and raise a family.