Homeowners in Northern Virginia may face massive, record-setting property tax increases of 20 percent or more in the upcoming year.
One reason is the EPA’s costly proposed stormwater regulations, which it plans to impose on counties near Washington, D.C., in the name of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. The Washington Examiner reported on Sunday that these new regulations would cost Fairfax County alone nearly $4 billion, resulting in an annual property tax increase for a typical homeowner by $650:
“In Fairfax County, which is expecting to pay as much as $3.75 billion over the next 15 years to meet the EPA’s new standards, property taxes would have to be increased by 14 cents per $100 of a home’s assessed value, Randy Bartlett, the county’s storm water director, said. “For an average Fairfax home, assessed at $459,228, the new tax would add nearly $650 to its owner’s annual property tax bill.” Increases may be even higher in some other localities with smaller populations: according to a study, ” it could cost each affected city and county between $259 million and $386 million a year for the next 15 years.”
The EPA left open a glimmer of hope for homeowners, conceding that its plan is not “the most cost-effective way” to clean up the Bay, and claiming that it would be open to “cheaper alternative plans” submitted by the State of Virginia.
Nevertheless, its plan “could cost Virginia, Maryland and the District billions of dollars each.”
Tax hikes might also occur because of a pending case in the Virginia Supreme Court that could shift some of the burden of property taxes from businesses to homeowners. In counties like Arlington, property taxes are higher on businesses than on homeowners (an additional 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed value), but that may violate the state constitution. The Virginia Supreme Court may soon issue a decision striking down counties’ practice of levying higher real estate tax on businesses than homeowners, notes the Arlington Sun-Gazette. The net result will be to reduce commercial property taxes, thus requiring the counties to either raise homeowners’ taxes to make up for the lost revenue, or cut government spending.
Virginia’s Arlington County won’t cut spending, thanks to its all-liberal, one-party County Board: despite the recession, Arlington County officials have already suggested to public employee unions that they will resume raising public employee pay soon (which had been limited recently to modest step increases). Indeed, in 2010, the Arlington County Board raised taxes by ten percent to go on a billion-dollar spending spree. Arlington voters rewarded them for this by reelecting a County Board member who voted for this increase, despite his utter incompetence in managing the regional Metro subway system. So increased taxes on homeowners are the way Arlington County will make up for any lost revenue if the Virginia Supreme Court strikes down the real estate surcharge on businesses.