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Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts Discussed in Budget Proposals

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Ideas on how to fund the needs of Prince William County are on the table, though some of them differ.

The Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday reviewed each proposals from supervisors Corey Stewart, At-Large, Peter Candland, R-Gainesville, Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, and John Jenkins, D-Neabsco.

Stewart and Candland propose a flat tax in 2014 that calls for $21 million in revenue reduction, cuts in services and county staff, and less funding to community partner organizations, such as youth mentoring partnerships and family services.

Proposals from Principi and Jenkins would accomplish the opposite effect, advocating for raising revenue and hiring new county employees.

Stewart proposal

The proposal from Corey Stewart would keep the tax bill paid by residents flat for 2014, leaving a $1.8 million budget surplus for the year. It would bring a $132 decrease in the average tax bill, but it also means budget deficits in 2015, ’16, and ’17 of up to $6 million.

“Additional operating or capital reductions need to be identified to balance the remaining years of the plan,” states county documents.

Stewart’s plan also means the county schools would have to cut $12.7 million from their spending plan, and 24 county employees would lose their jobs.

Another large portion of his plan calls for the state to fund more of its core services, like health clinics, thereby reducing in the need for county subsidy. A county document states The Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare, has the potential to fund the needs of more county residents through regular healthcare facilities if the state decides to expand Medicare.

Candland proposal

While Peter Candland’s flat tax proposal also calls for a $21 million cut in real estate tax revenue, it also promises to reduce spending by $207 million over the next five years. Additionally, a $5 million cut in taxes collected from businesses  is also on the table with this plan.

His plan also comes with additional cuts amounting to $8 million from county departments like  public works, human rights, aging, community services, and information technology to name a few, as well as several community organizations that rely on local government subsidy.

Some of the funding cuts proposed by Candland — $3.6 million of them — are for agencies already preparing to stop receiving general fund monies, like public health and human rights departments, according to county documents.

But Candland’s plan is not all about cuts as it does include a two-percent county employee raise (already budgeted in the five year plan), $350,000 for the county voter registrar, $1.2 million for parks and recreation, $1.2 million for fire and rescue, and $1 million for the county’s police department which is slated to build a mid-county police station in the area of Davis Ford Road and Prince William Parkway.

Candland’s plan also calls for covering the $26 million cost that associated with increasing student enrollment in county schools. The student population in Prince William is expected to grow by 12,000 students over five years. There’s also $15 million in his plan to cover the cost of reducing class sizes by one student in classrooms across the county.

The supervisor also supports a two-percent raise for teachers, but Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan who once served on the county’s independent School Board reminded Candland that the School Board will have the final say as to which school employees get raises.

All told, county documents show Candland’s proposal leaves large deficits over each of the next five years so additional cuts will be needed to pay for his plan.

Jenkins proposal

Bucking the Republican trend of reducing revenue, the John Jenkins plan increases county tax revenues by $44 million in 2014. Known as a balanced five year plan, Jenkins’ proposal would result in an average tax bill of $3,712 in 2014 – up $408 from the current tax bill, county documents state.

Schools would benefit to the tune of $25 million and 91 new county employees would be hired.

Also under the plan, the county would see a surplus of $6.1 million in 2015, but a $1.4 million deficit in 2016, and an $8.7 million deficit in 2017.

Principi proposal 

Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi wants to raise county revenue by $50 million to fund what officials say are “critical unmet needs” in. A portion of these funds would go to places like  the jail, parks and recreation, public works, police, fire and rescue, and to the county’s voter registrar – a total of $2.1 million to fund new voting machines and other expenses to modernize the voting process in the county.

The county’s schools would gain $26 million under this plan, officials would hire 93 new full time county employees, and the average tax bill would rise $447 over the current bill, county documents state.

The Board of Supervisors meets again next Tuesday and is expected to continue the budget appropriation discussion. The budget process begins in earnest after the first of the year.

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