Three Republican candidates seeking a seat on the Manassas City Council say they’ll stay focused on small businesses and reduce the tax burden on city residents who pay the second-highest property tax rate in Virginia.
Harry Clark, a city resident of nearly 30 years, is making his first run at elected office. Since 2002, he’s served on multiple city boards and commissions to include the Planning Commission and the Board of Equalization.
“We’ve got 28 boards and commissions in the city, and I want to make sure business-friendly people are on those boards and commissions,” Harry told Ross Snare, of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, which hosted a video conference call with the Republican candidates for Manassas City Council on Friday, Oct. 16.
Having more businesses in the city, both large and small, will ease the burden on homeowners owners, who saw the city council tack $220 more
onto their tax bills just eight weeks into the coronavirus pandemic. In recent years, city leaders have focused on new capital improvements, such as a new police station, new schools, and transportation improvements.
“We need to look at the city manager’s budget right now and determine what are the ‘nice to have’ things and look at the core things that keep the city running,” said Clark.
Ian Lovejoy, who is seeking his third term on the City Council and has voted against tax increases, said the City Council’s willingness to hike taxes by four percent, as it’s done every year for the past five years, is unsustainable. Those tax hikes came despite the city landing the state’s largest public-private economic development deal in history — a $3 billion expansion of the Micron plant announced in 2018,
When complete, the business is expected to generate more than $3.2 billion in new tax revenue for the state.
“The general consensus was when we have all of this new revenue, ‘we’re going to be able to lower taxes.’ The [City] Council did just the opposite,” said Lovejoy.
As s the city’s tax rate grows, second only to neighboring Manassas Park, so does concern that the municipality is losing its small-town feel, said Lynn Forkell Green, who is making her second run at the city council after losing to Democrat Ralph Snith by seven points during a special election last year to fill the seat vacated by Ken Elston.
Forkell Green has been vocal in limiting the height of buildings in the city’s downtown, opposing the urbanization of the city’s key attraction.
“Do we want to be fully urban, or do we want to somewhere in between?” asked Forkell Green. “The decisions we make over the next 10 years will make that choice for us.”
Republicans dominated the City Council until 2016 when Pamela Sebesky beat incumbent Jonathan Way in that year’s General Election. With the 2018 election of Michelle Davis Younger and reelection of Ken Elston, Democrats won control of the City Council.
The Republicans on October 16 took questions from the Chamber of Commerce as well as from participants on the call. Democrats have yet to agree to a similar arrangement.
Republican Theresa Coates Ellis, who’s running against Davis Younger for the city’s mayor’s seat, did not participate in the discussion. There are plans to hold a separate call for the mayoral candidates, said Snare.