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Proposed 2015 Budget Shows Increased Tax Bills, Keeps Focus on Public Safety

Prince William County residents could see an $85 annual increase in their tax bills next year.

Officials on the Board of County Supervisors got their first look at the county’s proposed FY 2015 nearly $1 billion budget which takes effect July 1, as proposed by County Executive Melissa Peacor.

While homeowners will pay 2.5% more next year as residential property assessments have risen, businesses will see their average tax bill drop 2.3% due to slower growth in the commercial real estate sector in the county.

Once a consensus is reached in late April and a final budget adopted, more than half of it will be transferred to the Prince William County School Division as part of a revenue sharing agreement.

Here is some of what Peacor proposed:

Public safety — $500,000

Add a new weekday ambulance service in Coles District

Add five new police officers

Libraries — $600,000

Add about 15 new full-time employees to work at new libraries in Montclair and Gainesville

Parks — $654,000

Install three lighted fields at the new Fuller Heights Park outside Quantico

Trail maintenance along Potomac Heritage National Scenic trail

Upgrade 90 fields at 59 elementary schools (institute $6 per person user fee to support maintenance – cost to be absorbed by sports leagues)

Rollins Ford Park operating cost

Employee compensation — $7.9 million

3% merit raise

Virginia Retirement System

Healthcare cost, increased by 2.7%

Group life insurance

Retiree health

Police and fire retirement fund

Increased fees

Development fees rise 3%

Storm water fees rise 3% to $38.21 per year

Fire levy increases 2.5%

Peacor said continuing efforts on zero-based budgeting (county departments hand back unused monies instead of automatically having the same baseline approved the following year) to save expenses within the county government have yielded another $1.7 million in projected savings in the coming year, but warned most the cost-saving methods have been implemented and that the local government is lean.

“As the years go on the amount is going to get smaller because we have routed out all of the savings,” said Peacor.

Public safety is the second-most funded item in the budget and it remains a funding priority for Board members. Beginning in FY 2016, 10 sworn police officers will be added, and 43 uniformed fire and rescue personnel will be added in FY 2017 through 2019.

There are no plans to hire new county staff between FY 2016 through 2019, and there are no new capital improvement projects other than what was adopted in this year’s current budget.

“Quite frankly, this budget is DOA – dead on arrival. This does not reflect the kind of investment that I would like to see in this community,” said Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi.

More investments in police due to population increases, as well as funding for athletic fields are some of the further investments called he called for.

A community budget meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Prince William County Government Center on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge. The session will serve as a chance for public input on the budget process.

A final budget is expected by April 29.

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