On April 24, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved the $3.1 billion FY 2019 Budget. Thank you to all who participated in the process by submitting comments and attending Citizen’s Time. A special thanks to members of the Woodbridge Budget Committee, who met eight times over the course of two months to review the proposed budget and make recommendations, and also gave a presentation to the BOCS during markup on April 17. Committee recommendations included:
- One-time increase in the computer and peripheral tax (data center tax) to $3.25 for FY 2019 to raise $16 million to be dedicated to site acquisition for future schools and eliminate the need for school trailers
- $750,000 from the FY 2018 Contingency Fund for dredging Neabsco Creek to keep the waterway navigable
- $100,000 annually to Community Services Board to provide adult daycare to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities; program currently has a massive waitlist. This would help to meet the county’s strategic plan to provide more services to individuals on CSB waitlist.
The Board approved funding for the creek dredging and CSB adult daycare, but the issue of school trailers was not resolved. It was a frequent topic of discussion during budget meetings (both in committee and with the BOCS), but no agreement was reached. Chairman Stewart put forth a proposal that included funding for schools, but that would have permanently tripled the property tax on programmable computer equipment, which had the potential to stifle economic growth, and would have hit data centers particularly hard.
Given the potential to erode the business tax base long term, by stifling this growth industry, Supervisor Principi was among those opposing the failed plan. He noted that tax revenue from county data centers increased from $3 million in 2010 to $25 million in 2017, and that keeping the tax rate stable would likely allow that growth to continue. Principi, as part of the BOCS/school board committee helped to secure an extra $23 million for schools this past year, and is committed to finding additional funding this year, as well.
Another hot topic was the County Executive’s proposal to increase the fire tax levy to fund the hiring of more career firefighters. Traditionally, the levy has only been used to support the volunteer firefighters. Some community members are concerned that an influx of career firefighters and a new policy requiring 24-hour shifts will reduce the county’s volunteer force, ultimately raising the cost of this vital service. During the hours long discussion on the matter, Supervisor Principi made several motions asking that hiring be postponed until career and volunteers can meet to discuss how to work effectively as a combined system (as required by Chapter 9.2). Reflecting this position, he voted against the 1 percent increase to the BOCS-approved fire levy.
Supervisor Principi will share the FY19 budget resolutions on the website and on Facebook after May 8, when it will be certified. The adopted budget will be available in early July.