BOCS Debrief: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Friday night, the BOCS once again discussed the budget and advertisement of a tax rate. Three proposals for advertised tax rates failed on 4-4 votes. These included $1.115 from Supervisor Candland (a self-described "compromise" from his prior $1.102 flat tax rate), $1.145 from Supervisor Principi (the tax rate suggested by the Five Year Plan), and $1.122 from Supervisor Anderson (the current tax rate).
- Advertisement of the $1.145 Property Tax Rate: With the Board's failure to advertise a tax rate, the rate will be advertised administratively by Acting County Executive Christopher Martino and his staff. The result will most likely be the advertisement of the default $1.145 rate (3.88% average tax bill increase) suggested by the Five Year Plan. While Chairman Corey Stewart may have threatened, "Citizens should not read anything into the advertised budget," this is a win because there will be the opportunity for not only the Board to properly discuss the budget but, additionally, for citizens to weigh in on the needs for their community before the BOCS adopts a budget in April.
- The Bi-Partisan Gang of Four: Supervisors Principi, Caddigan, Jenkins, and Nohe held strong on not advertising a rate too low. As Supervisor Principi properly noted, the meeting should have been about discussing a ceiling for the tax rate and "not setting the tax rate" citing concerns about mental health services, public safety, schools, a deficit of nine fire station, needs for a growing county, and the opportunity to listen to the "people we work for."
- The Austere Four: Chairman Stewart along with Supervisors Candland, Lawson, and Anderson stood as a stone wall against raising taxes, no matter the consequences. Supervisor Anderson remarked, "Taxes are the reason I ran for this seat.... The Five Year Plan is out of control." Candland went further, commenting that the advertised rate is a "baseball bat" for "spending with wreckless abandon." The Austere Four sought more to set a low tax rate than advertise a ceiling, without the transparency of explaining what should be cut or allowing the community to have input. In the end, though, defaulting to the advertisement of the $1.145 was a big loss for the Austere Four's goals of permanent austerity for the county.
- Supervisor Candland's Math on Taxes and Spending: Supervisor Candland loves making charts and throwing around dizzying arrays of facts and figures to prove that permanent austerity is needed for the county. I will be writing in the future to debunk, as I have in the past, some of this math. One thing Candland repeated talked about in his extended soliloquies (some of which one could see he was visibly angry) was out-of-control government spending. However, It should be noted that increases in government spending are not necessarily a bad thing -- For example, Prince William County Schools lag significantly behind in per-pupil and local funding (to the tune of $150-200 million or more compared to if our schools were funded at the levels of Loudoun or Fairfax Counties). Funding is needed to address critical unmet needs in both the school system and the county.
- Chairman Stewart's Behavior: Where to begin? Last year Chairman Stewart fought against austere budgeting and tax rates and had some contentious exchanges with Supervisor Candland. This year, he is lockstep with Candland. The difference? Could it be that higher office aspirations "Trump" doing what is right for the county residents that elected him? Further, Chairman Stewart had some issues with being ringleader last night. For example, he allowed Supervisor Candland most of the spotlight while cutting off other Supervisors (such as a rightfully annoyed Supervisor Caddigan) and ignored the simplest of applications of Robert's Rules of Order.
The McCoart Madness is far from over as Budget Season gears up with the Prince William County School Board finalizing a budget and a tax rate being adopted by the BOCS. Stay Tuned!