Prince William County supervisors are pushing off any action on a controversial tax hike that would primarily affect data centers, a pet proposal of Republican At-Large Chairman Corey Stewart. He was hoping to triple the “computer equipment and peripherals” tax rate, in order to generate $21 million to afford a small real estate tax cut, new annual funding for school construction and pay raises for public safety employees. But the Board of County Supervisors opted to study the issue in more detail instead of voting on his proposal April 17, the board’s “markup” session and final chance to substantially alter the fiscal 2019 budget before taking a final vote on April 24…
“Quite frankly, we should not be doing this overnight by tripling it,” said Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge. “Certainly, there are a lot of needs to be addressed with new revenue…but maybe the right time to talk about this is six months from now.”
Stewart’s tax hike proposal attracted sharp criticism from the county’s business community, particularly the tech sector, over concerns that such a sharp tax increase would stifle expansion efforts by existing data centers and scare away prospective investors…
…Without any action on Stewart or Candland’s proposals, the roughly $1.2 billion budget includes a 5.7 percent bump in the county’s fire levy, and no change to the real estate tax rate of $1.125 per $100 of assessed value. However, with property values creeping upward, those rates will bump up tax bills for the average county resident by about $136 next year.
The budget also includes money for a pay raise for the county’s public safety workers, such as firefighters, police officers and jail staffers. In fiscal 2019, the county plans to spend $3.1 million to address “pay compression” within those professions, where more experienced or higher ranking employees make less than colleagues with less time on the job or inferior ranks
A report prepared for supervisors in January showed that compression was a prime factor in public safety workers abandoning Prince William for neighboring jurisdictions…
…the board did agree to some modest tweaks to the budget Tuesday night.
In a non-binding straw poll, the board unanimously agreed to send $350,000 to the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center on George Mason University’s Manassas campus.
The center — which is funded jointly by Mason, the county and the city of Manassas — was asking for $450,000 annually from the county over the next five years to fund renovations to the facility. But the board balked at such an ongoing expense, opting instead for a one-time expenditure this year and pledged to study the center’s request for additional funding in more detail.
The board also unanimously agreed to spend up to $750,000 to dredge a portion of the Neabsco Creek.
The U.S. Coast Guard recently declared that the waterway is too shallow for motorized watercraft, imperiling marina owners and other boaters along the creek and Potomac River. Principi and other local officials have been locked in negotiations with the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers over how to address the issue, and supervisors decided to dip into some leftover funding from fiscal 2018 to dredge a 50-foot-wide channel leading to the creek.