As usual, school employees and frightened parents were out in full force at the budget public hearings, demanding full funding of the school budget and adoption of the unprecedented $1.29 tax rate.  The disproportionate showing was to be expected considering the vast networking resources Ed Hatrick has at his disposal.  The newest LCPS resource is the Connect-Ed phone messaging system which is supposed to be used to communicate with parents about emergency situations, school events and important issues affecting their child.  If you have a child in LCPS, you received a message from the principal encouraging you to attend Hatrick’s dog and pony show at your local high school touting all the great programs in his budget that are absolutely necessary, but may be cut if funding is reduced.  You also received a message from Wade Byard, LCPS public information officer, about the budget public hearings.  It was a misuse of taxpayer money.

Where were the majority of taxpayers who want substantially lower taxes?  You know, the ones who voted down the meals tax by 70% of the vote (despite promises that the money would be spent directly on schools) and approved the school bond referenda by historically slim margins last November.  Did they think someone else would show up?

Even though the county has announced that homeowners will get an average 3.2% property tax reduction – not much considering the average residential assessment went down by 14.6% – at the $1.29 rate, a TAG ( analysis of the assessment data found that over 30,000 homeowners, or one third of the county, will actually pay higher taxes at that rate.  That is because the change in assessments from 2008 to 2009 varied so wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood across the county.  In general, higher value homes, such as single family detached homes, held their value better (in the opinion of the county assessor) than townhomes and condos.  Those who already pay the most will be paying an even greater share in 2009!  Is this the county’s version of spreading the wealth around?

The county budget is fat.  Spending is now $300 million higher than what was needed to keep pace with growth and inflation since the FY 2000 budget.  See the TAG website for details.  There is no reason to raise the $1.14 tax rate.  Let’s face it, if the board does not get spending under control during this economic downturn, they never will.  When the real estate market rebounds, the out-of-control spending will resume, and the average tax bill will soon be 5 figures.

The FY 2010 budget will be adopted in a few weeks.  Time is running out.  Taxpayers need to show strong support for a lower tax rate by emailing their supervisors (BOS@Loudoun.Gov) and attending the budget input session, hosted by Susan Buckley, at the Cascades Library this Saturday, March 7 at 9am.