‘People Are Still Hurting and Struggling Financially’ in Fairfax City

City’s advertised real-estate tax rate is $1.08

In February, Fairfax City Manager Rob Stalzer proposed a residential real-estate tax rate of $1.08 per $100 assessed valuation, as part of the City’s FY 22 budget. It represented an increase of $0.005 – from the current $1.075 tax rate.

The Fairfax City Council won’t officially adopt the new budget until May 5. But in the meantime, it’s decided to stick with Stalzer’s proposed residential real-estate tax rate of $1.08 as what it will advertise. It doesn’t mean that, specific figure will be ultimately approved; it just puts a ceiling on the tax rate the Council may adopt.

“It’s the maximum amount it can be,” Stalzer told the Council during its meeting, last Tuesday, March 23. “But you can adjust it, if you want.”

He believes the $1.08 tax rate is needed because $0.035 of it would support the City’s Stormwater Fund. However, because this tax hike would come on top of City residents’ raised home assessments for calendar year 2021, the owner of an average home in Fairfax valued at $541,554 would pay $20/month more in real-estate taxes for an annual rise of $235.

The 3.5-cent stormwater fund increase would yield approximately $2.3 million dedicated to fund stormwater projects. The money is needed for improvements to the City’s stormwater infrastructure.

“A half penny on the stormwater budget brings us back to where we wanted to be,” explained Chief Financial Officer Dave Hodgkins. “Because of the pandemic, we didn’t add a fourth of a penny [to it] in 2021 [as we’d planned].”

And, added Fairfax Mayor David Meyer, “Keeping our stormwater funding at this level will enable us to meet stringent, Chesapeake Bay mandates.”

Councilmember Sang Yi asked for more information about the home-assessment increase for the City’s homeowners. And Hodgkins told him it rose 2 percent over the previous year.

“When assessments go up, people have to pay more, even if the tax rate doesn’t go up,” said Yi. “And if it does, it’s a double whammy. People are still hurting and struggling financially because of the pandemic. So I think that, in this, of all times, the City needs to tighten its belt and find the $340,000 the rate hike would bring, elsewhere.”

Councilmember So Lim agreed with him. “I don’t think this is the time to increase our residential tax rate,” she said. And Councilmember Joe Harmon concurred.

However, three other members of the Council were of a different mind. “I’m willing to advertise the rate at $1.08,” said Councilmember Janice Miller. “There’s ample time to make changes, once we get the school-system information.”

Agreeing, Councilmember Tom Ross said, “I’d like to keep $1.08 as a marker, for now. Let’s see what happens, in the next few weeks, as we go through the budget process.” Councilmember Jon Stehle concurred.

The vote was 3-3, with Miller, Ross and Stehle voting yes, and Yi, Lim and Harmon voting no. Meyer then broke the tie by also voting affirmatively, so the advertised tax rate will officially be $1.08.

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