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    Comstock’s property taxes raise questions about a central campaign narrative

    Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock has paid less in property taxes on her Fairfax County home since her opponent took office on the Fairfax Board of Supervisors. Comstock has repeatedly tagged her opponent, John Foust, as an advocate for higher taxes.Times-Mirror File Photo/Trevor Baratko
    State delegate and 10th Congressional District candidate Barbara Comstock (R) paid nearly $300 less in property taxes in 2014 than in 2008, the year her Democratic opponent John Foust began serving on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, raising questions about a central line of attack from the Comstock camp – that Foust is a “tax-loving Obama Democrat,” to use the words of an ad from the GOP camp.

    Comstock has repeatedly called Foust an enthusiastic supporter for tax hikes, including in a TV spot titled “Taxman,” which highlighted a figure oft-used by the GOP camp that says Foust raised property taxes by 22 percent.

    Given a closer look, the 22 percent mark is disputable. Fairfax County's property tax rate has increased by 22 percent since 2008 -- from $0.89 per $100 in assessed value to $1.09 in 2015; but factoring in depreciating home values through the Great Recession, the average tax bill in the wealthy county will increase only about $18 from 2008 to 2015, according to estimates.

    Owners of the Comstock residence in McLean -- the delegate, her husband and her parents' trust -- paid nearly $300 less in 2014 than in 2008, according to Fairfax County records, from $14,499.26 to $14,199.83.

    The Foust campaign said these tax bills exhibit hypocrisy from Comstock.

    “Barbara Comstock has ran her entire campaign on distortions,” Foust campaign manager Shaun Daniels said. “I'm not surprised she has benefited from John's record of fiscal responsibility. Comstock is an extreme partisan and her attacks against John have nothing to do with reality and everything to do with hiding her own record.”

    Daniels continued, “From voting against transportation and education funding to coming between women and their doctors, Comstock says one thing and does another.”

    For his home, Supervisor Foust paid roughly $60 more in 2014 than in 2008, according to Daniels.

    Del. Comstock's campaign responded by sticking to the 22 percent tax rate figure and saying Foust has done nothing to reduce taxes for Fairfax residents.

    “[Comstock's] home is worth approximately 19 percent less than it was in 2008,” Comstock spokeswoman Susan Falconer said. “For John Foust to use the recession and lowered home values as an excuse to vote for ever higher taxes shows just how out of touch he is.”

    “John Foust broke his promise to his constituents when he first ran for office and said he would 'lessen the tax burden on homeowners.' In fact he didn't break that promise just once -- he broke it six times,” Falconer said, referring to the increased tax rate figures.

    The Foust camp continued to dispute, saying the Democrat has exhibited "fiscal conservatism" throughout his tenure.

    “If you account for inflation, Fairfax is actually spending less than when John was first elected,” Daniels said.


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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

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