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Supervisors hear administrator’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal

Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented his bosses, the county's nine-member Board of Supervisors, with a more than $1.8 billion spending plan for fiscal 2014 Wednesday evening – a budget that keeps homeowners' tax bills equal and maintains the county's core government services, Hemstreet said.

Following guidance from the board, the equalized tax rate will be advertised as $1.23 per $100 in assessed value. At the direction of the nine Republicans, Hemstreet dedicated two cents within the advertised real property tax rate to fund transportation infrastructure projects.

Fiscal 2014 runs from July 2013 through June 2014.

The county's tax rate was $1.235 in fiscal 2013 and $1.285 in 2012.

The final equalized rate could fluctuate gradually over the next few weeks, Hemstreet told the supervisors, as his staff is still analyzing the county's revenue collections.

During his presentation, Hemstreet highlighted the county's thriving economy over the past year. Loudoun's initial real property portfolio was expected to increase by 2.4 percent in 2013 over 2012, according to Hemstreet. Locally-based jobs grew by nearly 4 percent in the past year, more than twice the national rate. Loudoun County's unemployment rate is the lowest in the state, resting at less than 4 percent.

Loudoun County employees would receive a 3 percent, performance-based pay raise under the administrator's plan. Those employees have absorbed increased workloads with fewer resources over the past several years, Hemstreet said.

While the administrator's proposal reduces the gap between the Loudoun County Public Schools' (LCPS) budget and supervisors' allocation to the schools, there remains an $18 million shortage in what Hemstreet proposes allocating and what the school officials want. The school board's adopted budget results in an approximately $37 million increase in funding from the county from fiscal 2013, requiring an additional $30 million more from the county. Hemstreet's budget funds an extra $12 million for the school system.

LCPS are expected to educate approximately 2,500 new students next school year, as well as open two elementary schools.

As Hemstreet pointed out, 86 cents of every dollar of local tax funding in his plan goes toward the county's schools, capital projects, debt service and public safety.

The supervisors did not comment or pose questions to Hemstreet Wednesday. The board will hold budget worksessions in March to debate and likely adjust Hemstreet's proposal. The county's fiscal 2014 budget will be finalized by early April.

Public hearings on the budget will be held at the Loudoun County Government Center Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. if needed, and March 2 at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building at 9 a.m.

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Can someone please explain how such a minuscule drop in the tax rate can give the ‘average’ homeowner in this county a flat tax bill this year! Property values are rising, assessments will therefore rise, and the net result using a $1.23 rate will be a significant increase to our real estate tax bills! Can the BoS please adjust this rate accordingly to reflect what they claimed they were setting out to do which was to keep things flat!

Here we go again!  Assessments include both residential and commercial.  As usual, commercial will be down, and residential assessments will be up, up, up.  Which will mean, that for the empty land that is deemed commerctial, they will see no real change (ha, ha) but we home owners will see higher, higher, higher taxes.  Great!  Aren’t we all equal now?

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