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Once again, Loudoun is the nation’s most affluent county. So why isn’t everyone celebrating?

Danni is one of the stories from the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties’ “Faces of Need” campaign. Danni, who has MS, says she used to have to decide between feeding her family or buying medicine for herself. Courtesy Photo/Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Faquier Counties
Loudoun County is once again the richest county in the U.S., according to the latest Census Bureau estimates, but not everyone thinks the distinction is a cause for celebration – and some residents think the title masks certain truths.

The county boasts a median household income just shy of $126,000, top in the nation.

Yet Amy Owen, the executive director of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, thinks being the richest county is "a relative accolade.”

"Studies have shown for those who live in communities that look like us, people give less. They think, 'I'm not seeing it.' Poverty pockets are not so easy to see in a newly developed county," Owen said.

A recent study conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy revealed Loudoun residents donate less of their income -- under 2 percent -- to local charities compared to neighboring counties and the rest of the U.S.

As soon as the latest “richest” designation hit, local residents took to social media to weigh in on the news .

“Still no full day kindergarten though … tell me again how we can't afford it?” Courtney Soria noted on the Times-Mirror's Facebook page.

The group Loudoun For Full Day Kindergarten joined in the debate.

“There is not full-day kindergarten for 100% of Loudoun Students. Seven schools are without full day and will require at some as many as five years before they see the first classroom,” the group noted.

Loudoun County Public Schools anticipates having the capacity to serve approximately 82 percent of its kindergarten students with full day kindergarten during the 2017-2018 school year.

Jennifer Snyder-Allen, a Round Hill resident, commented, “I am far from being rich...it's just expensive to live here, and just because you live here doesn't make you rich...please.”

Others sought to keep things in perspective.

“What a bunch of negativity. While I disagree with us being the richest its not a bad place to live or raise kids. Compared to other places I've lived this place is pretty darn good,” Steve Radloff gave a counter argument.

Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) agrees the title can be misleading.

“Loudoun County is a fantastic place to live. Certainly we'd rather be the county with the highest median income, but that doesn't mean there aren't people in need, people who are homeless or need food,” Randall said. “The salaries of county employees have fallen below the mean, hopefully they can be greatly improved this coming budget year.”

Almost 10,000 Loudoun residents commute to D.C., while the vast majority find jobs in the county. Top local employers include Dulles Airport, Loudoun County Public Schools and the Department of Homeland Security. Thousands more are employed within the vast array of technology companies and at data centers.

According to city-data.com, Loudoun's cost of living in 2016 was 134.3, meaning it costs 34.3 percent more to live in Loudoun than the average U.S. community.

Scores of teachers and first responders travel from outside the county to work.

Last year, the Loudoun Education Association, a local chapter of a national teacher’s union, surveyed LCPS staff about residency. Out of those who responded, over half -- 52 percent -- said they had a second job or were seeking other work to make ends meet.

While Loudoun takes the top spot, according to the 2015 Census Bureau estimates, half of the richest counties in America are within an hour of the District of Columbia.

In second place is the nearby City of Falls Church. Technically an independent city, Falls Church is considered by the Census Bureau to be equivalent to a county. More than 78 percent of Falls Church adult residents have a bachelor's degree or higher. Over 31 percent of residents there are employed by the government.

Other D.C. suburbs with high earnings include Fairfax and Arlington counties and Howard County in Maryland.

The wealth is not confined to older generations. In six of the 10 counties, the median age is between 37 and 39. The national median age is 37.8. The oldest county on the list is Hunterdon County, N.J., with a median age of 45, while the youngest is Arlington County, with a median of 33.9.

The poverty rates in most of the counties making the list are also low. In both Falls Church and Colorado's Douglas County, the poverty rate is 4 percent, compared to the national rate of 13.5 percent, with most counties on the list falling between 4 percent and 6 percent. Only Arlington County and Santa Clara County, California, had higher poverty rates, at 9 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

The Census Bureau Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates for 2015 is the last full year for which data is available.

A former Loudoun resident, Teresa, was very clear about her experience as a local resident. The Times-Mirror asked Teresa about the latest “richest” title while the woman was walking through the Village at Leesburg last week.

"The cost of living here is outrageous, and people are snobs," said Teresa, who didn't want to give her last name. "They won't take care of the roads here and developers are being allowed to build all over the place. West Virginia roads are in better condition than Loudoun's.”


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Comments


Heather is right. wealth is basically when your assets exceed your liabilities. High income does not translate into wealth. The high income is absorbed by the high COL. In fact, the wages don’t even keep up with the housing costs. I have had many job offers in other cities in US where houses are at least 40% (more like 50 to 60%) cheaper and I would make the same salary or 10% less.


Not everyone makes 6 figure incomes in LC! They need to CHILL OUT on building new places to live. We have ENOUGH communities for ppl to live! We don’t want this to be the next Tyson’s Corner.


Ugh, how many times do we have to go over this?! Loudoun County is NOT the “richest” or “most affluent” county in the country! You think we’re richer than the Hamptons? Martha’s Vineyard? Silicon Valley?

To be rich means to have wealth, accumulated total value. We do NOT rank anywhere near the top in that regard. All we’re the top in is median annual income. Meaning the average person in our county has a high annual salary. That means nothing in regard to savings, total net worth, or anything at all relating to being “rich” per the actual or even societal definition of that word.

What’s more, our cost of living is high! So even though we technically have high salaries, our cost of living matches it. Thankfully it doesn’t exceed it, yet. But if we keep adding to government expenditures on the mistaken belief that we’re “rich”, we very well could end up like the San Francisco Bay area where cost of living now exceeds their higher salaries.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t write about economic data unless you actually understand basic economics. Media matters a great deal and unfortunately you’re giving everyone the wrong idea!


How about addressing Sterling Park and Sugarland. The population of poor students at both Sterling Middle and Park View High has increased in recent years. The percentage of students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-meal program at Park View was 53 percent four years ago, and is up to 65 percent. At Sterling Middle School, the rate has jumped from 57.7 percent four years ago, to 70 percent this year.

How about seven of the nine Loudoun County public schools (Forest Grove Elementary, Guilford Elementary, Rolling Ridge Elementary, Sterling elementary, Sugarland Elementary, Sully Elementary and Dominion High School) serving free meals throughout the summer are located in Sterling. Why are just about all of the students receiving free meals living in a small northeast corner of Loudoun County.

Sterling has more food pantries than any other Loudoun community. I live here and know the poverty that exists. I was the PTA president at Sterling Middle in 2000. We budgeted $250.00 annually to assist kids with needs. Now 70 percent of the students this year are registered for free and reduced-meal programs. Not everyone is enjoying the current affluence.


MargeGeneverra….What’s wrong with 28 and Waxpool?  The issue is not the interchange, it’s the fact that there is a light at Waxpool and Pacific.  There is always a better way of doing things, and people often try and point that out, but not everyone knows what they are talking about.


@RH.  It’s clear that you’ve never seen a properly constructed limited access highway with parallel service roads. Your example of 28 with Pacific and Atlantic is not close to that design. Rt 28 is the result of a long series of overly expensive band-aid projects done by VDOT over a very long period of time.  This is not the way to build a limited access highway.  Also, do you consider the Rt 28 / Waxpool intersection a great piece of VDOT engineering? That took a long time and cost a fortune…

How long (or at what cost) will it be before one can travel Rt 7 from Clark county to Tysons without stop lights or cars darting across from side roads?


How does the county stack up in other income statistics?
50% of households (not individuals) make more than other counties.  But how do we do in terms of both parents working and how much time in excess of the standard 40 hour week?  How do we compare in ultra-rich populations to places like Palm Beach?  Where do we stand on individual incomes, and how skewed are our income distributions (what are the mean and mode)?  How do we compare in county tax bases, where property values matter more than incomes?  Full day kindergartens and other school costs are funded by property taxes, not income taxes.


MargeGeneverra…..What you describe is exactly what 28 is (Pacific and Atlantic on each side) and what 7 will be in a year or so (Russell Branch and Riverside PKWY on each side), so let’s not be too critical, plus a lot of areas around the Country have not experienced the growth that Loudoun has in the past 20 years, it takes time and money. 

I’m glad to see people stick up for the County, you are always going to have those who can never be pleased, no matter what, we could have things a lot worse, just look at other places.  I’ll take this over plenty of other places around the Country.


I think Loudoun is a very nice place to live and there are ways to serve the less fortunate. People in Loudoun are just always working so they can afford to live here. They might not donate money, but they find ways to donate their time. You just need to tell them and they will help.


I am not excusing VDOT and the lack of the legislature to invest in Loudoun roads.  But they can’t construct a big-bang solution just like Rt 28 was mitigated by a series of overpasses.

The Lexington, Ashburn Village and Belmont interchanges will be gone soon.  Then, River Creek Pkwy.  Residents on Rt 7 from the outlets to Sterling will be able to commute to Tyson’s, Springfield, Arlington or DC without ever hitting a red light.  We are pretty close.

In addition, you now have parallel roads on Gloucester, Russell Branch and (soon-to-be) Riverside.  I regularly take those roads to Rt 28 if Rt 7 looks like it even might back up at Lexington/Ashburn Village.

A LOT more money needs to be invested.  But the BOS started focusing on these needs a few years back and we are seeing the results.


“Rt 7 was backed up at the LoCo Pkwy lights a few years back”

LOL!

Now it backs up at the Lexington lights - new lights put in 1/4 mile away, after VDOT spent $20M + to eliminate the lights at LoCo Pkwy.

I’ve lived all over the country and can say that VDOT is inept at designing highways.  We get a patchwork of band-aids instead of well designed highways.  Rt 7 should be a limited access highway, with parallel service roads for businesses.  Most states design highways that way - not Virginia…


When I moved here in 2004, Rt 28 was chock full of red lights. Now it is a virtual interstate. Rt 7 was backed up at the LoCo Pkwy lights a few years back. Once Ashburn Village and Belmont interchanges are complete, there won’t be any backups on that stretch.

The Greenway alt is not solved yet, but traffic is much improved and close to being manageable.

However, we have a lot of work left in our education system. We have runaway suicides and our schools performed worse than similarly affluent areas in the US and around the world (PISA results). The students rated their teachers as much less likely to care about their well-being than other districts. And we have a board that condones allowing teachers with misconduct to resign and covers up any and all negative reports. If not for our talented students, these problems would be readily apparent.


We should celebrate we aren’t the poorest county in America.  Better to rich and have problems of affordability than be poor and can’t afford to replace the lead pipes with schools that have leaks in the roof.

Fall all the issues people cite, being in Loudoun beats places like Detroit or East St. Louis.


We are not celebrating because we are too busy working. People seem to forget that affluence or at least some financial comfort is almost always a direct result of hard work.
Regarding the complaints about growth, I said this 19 years ago when I moved to Ashburn- everyone seems to want to be the last person to move to Loudoun County. They all want the door closed behind them. Also, Bob O. makes a good point- debt is not a factor in determining wealth and there are a lot of people who live above their means, never thinking that the bill will eventually come due.


Snobs, really??  Wanna experience real friendship and a supportive community? Drop by Ashburn Crossfit and see how much fun everyone has!


So
1 They don’t count debt in the wealth formula
2 They don’t count Loudoun’s high property tax rate relative to the rest of Virginia
3 They don’t count the economic engine known as Dulles Airport which was “TAKEN” by the federal gov’t and now the extensive extremely profitable parking lots escape any property tax even though they are in Loudoun and have nothing to do with national security
4 They don’t count the over $259 Million per year literally taken by the state from Loudoun from sales tax supposedly to go to education “BECAUSE” we apparently don’t need it
5 They don’t count the 10’s of millions VDOT was supposed to contribute to overpasses which Loudoun had to absorb due to the state thinking we don’t need it and the BOS being too fragile to actually negotiate for Loudoun (example - the BOS even pay Mr. Snyder of Redskins to be able to use “fact” that they are actually located in Loudoun while they decide to practice in Richmond)
For a rich county we seem to have management that defaults to charging taxpayers for everything (even developer held properties get discounted property tax rates and HHMI pays nothing)
Yes - we are rich by someone’s political expedient formula but don’t tell your checking account that or anyone who understands politics or management.
Bob O__ Esq.


LoudounResident010, the LTM has a story within the past 24 hours about a luxury gun club opening up. That’s to be right next to iFly and Top Golf….all three of those things are are far different than you state as “pretty much the only things they’re building here.” They’re also extremely unique experiences that areas with less attractive demographics wouldn’t get.

Within the last few years there has been a ton of development around Dulles Towne Center, as well as the creation of Loudoun One, very little of which falls into the categories you state. There’s craft breweries and wineries sprouting up all over the place. Metro is opening up. The Redskins have expanded their practice facility and are considering building a stadium. The list goes on.

And yes, I live in Sterling and welcome more data centers. Just in the past couple months, AWS (those data centers you claim no one wants) is locating 1500 people in Herndon to run its East Coast operations…. those are high paying jobs and where are those people going to live?

What type of construction are you looking for that is absent? There’s few places in the country as exciting and promising as things are currently in LoCo. People should appreciate what we’re experiencing.


Obviously, paved roads and broadband access were not considered.  I guess that that applies only to the western county. 

Loudoun really should be two separate counties, over-developed east and under-developed west.  That idea has been floated numerous times, but has never had any political support.


VA GSP:

Where do you see traffic “improving on the 7 and the 28 freeways”?  I commute daily on BOTH freeways and it only is getting worse thanks to BOS approving so many new housing developments. You must commute on those aforementioned freeways between the hours of 7PM and 5AM on weekdays


People are constantly complaining about growth because the type of growth we’re experiencing doesn’t benefit anyone that already lives here.

Do you think people in Sterling/Ashburn/Leesburg care if they build another Data Center?  Or another chain restaurant/big box store?  How about more apartments?  Those are pretty much the only things they’re building here.


Many folks don’t want any low-income or moderate-income housing in the county, thus they complain about the “developers”.  The reference to “snobs” is a direct result of many only wanting high-income housing where the retail workers cannot afford to live in the county.  Note that teachers can afford to live here as 77% already do.  The younger teachers can room together just like nearly ALL young military service members do (officer or enlisted).

The folks complaining about no FDK are simply middle-class freeloaders.  They want other taxpayers to be forced to pay for their kids’ daycare.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Overall, Loudoun is a nice place to live.  The traffic is getting much better (see Rt 7 and 28).  The youth sports and rec leagues are abundant.  The schools are not bad.  What folks object to is when the PR department tries to tell us everyone is rich beyond belief, the schools are perfect,
and all of our politicians are ethical.  We know that’s not true and only want some accountability and straight answers.


While I disagree with the woman calling us ‘snobs’, I do notice a general negativity, at least on message boards and online forums. People are constantly complaining about growth, and taking good stories like this one and desperately trying to find a black lining on a white cloud. This is a great place to live. I’ve lived in several areas and have traveled a lot, and other areas would kill for having to deal with the supposed “problems” that we have in LoCo.

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