Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Friday, January 6, 2017

"The Absurdity of a New Reston Road Tax," Terry Maynard, Reston Connection, January 4-10, 2017

The following is the text of the subject op-ed written by Reston 20/20 Co-Chair Terry Maynard.

On December 19, while most of us were getting ready for the holidays, a bare quorum of the County’s Reston Network Analysis Group (RNAG), a group appointed by Supervisor Hudgins, met and voted by a narrow majority to endorse a new tax on Reston station area homeowners to help pay for future street improvements there.  The vote was literally no more than an endorsement by a developer-dominated group of a totally unwarranted tax that will subsidize for profit development without a single community representative from the Reston station areas affected by the prospective tax.   
 
The RNAG vote specifically endorsed a proposed Tax Service District (TSD) that imposes added property taxes of $.021/$100 valuation on all property owners—including residences—living near Reston’s Metro stations.  As laid out by the county transportation department (FCDOT), residents will end up paying about 40% of the $350 million in TSD taxes over the next 40 years—some $140 million under a set of assumptions that grossly understate the likely costs residents will pay.

Absurd County Assumptions

And why?  Because the Board of Supervisors directed FCDOT to find a new revenue source to pay for improvements of the streets in and around Reston’s station areas, of course, without asking if a new funding source were needed.  Then FCDOT generated a phony $350 million “gap” in Reston road funding over the next 40 years that could only be filled with some new tax revenue source—as directed by the Board. 

The funding “gap” is based on a number of bogus assumptions.  First, at the heart of this tax scheme is the absolutely incredulous assumption that the County is unable to re-allocate any of its current $4 billion in annual County General Fund tax revenues to improve Reston’s streets in and around the station areas.  The amount that needs to be diverted each year is less than $9 million, a sum that barely rates as a rounding error in the County budget. 

Second, if for whatever cockamamie reason the County seriously believes it can’t divert funds to improve Reston’s streets to support massive development, it could ever so slightly raise the tax rate on any of several existing County-wide tax mechanisms to generate the needed funds.  In a more perfect world, the Board could even twist developers’ arms to have them pay for all the road improvements since they alone will profit to the tune of more than one billion dollars per year over the next four decades.  Another special tax on Reston homeowners (on top of the existing community-wide special tax district charging $.047/$100 valuation to fund the Reston Community Center) or any part of them is totally unwarranted; the street improvements are merely a fabricated excuse.

Third, the TSD proposal ignores the order of magnitude growth in the taxable value of planned Reston station area development over the next four decades.  Right now, Reston’s station areas are valued at about $6 billion.  Four decades from now they will likely be valued at more than $60 billion, and maybe as much as $90 billion, based on long-term area experience.  Even without a rate increase, that means the County will collect over $11 billion in basic property taxes from Reston’s station areas over the next 40 years, an average of more than one-quarter billion dollars in Reston station area taxes per year even without the TSD.  Surely three percent of those $11 billion-plus revenues could be used to fund Reston’s road improvements.

Fourth, don’t fool yourself into assuming those new TSD tax funds will just be added to Reston’s current transportation funding level.  The bulk of the added tax revenue generated by this TSD tax stream will most likely be offset by the County’s diversion of much of its current Reston station area transportation funding to other areas of the county.   

And, once the tax is approved, station area residents will be stuck:
  • This tax doesn’t require a referendum approval, just the approval of the tax-ravenous Board of Supervisors, backed by the pre-holiday endorsement of the phony RNAG group.
  • There is nothing to keep the Board of Supervisors from raising the TSD tax rate—and residential tax burden—just as it has with a similar TSD in Tysons.
  • Finally, there is no sunset provision on the TSD proposal.  When that initial roadway investment is completed, station area homeowners will continue to pay the TSD tax indefinitely.  
Stop the Scam:  Restonians Pay while the County Collects Forever

And there you have the massive scam of the alleged “gap” in Reston station area street improvement funding.  There really is no “funding gap.” There is just another County scheme to pick homeowners’ pockets.  It reflects the Board’s refusal to put an additional penny into Reston streets despite billions of existing and future tax dollars sources.  At the same time, Restonians will face worse traffic by virtue of the County’s explicit intent to lower traffic flow standards such that intersection delays will nearly double during rush hour.   

The notion of a Reston station area “funding gap” is a swindle perpetrated by the Board to justify the creation of another tax revenue stream unrelated to any legitimate new tax funding need.  As a Restonian, whether or not you live in a Reston station area, you need to oppose this preposterous County tax scheme. 
  • You can do so by contacting Supervisor Hudgins’ office (Catherine.Hudgins@fairfaxcounty.gov) and telling her that you are against the Board’s imposition of this unnecessary and unfair tax. 
  • You can also sign the petition on Change.org (https://www.change.org/p/fairfax-county-board-of-supervisors-stop-the-tsd-road-tax-on-reston-metro-station-area-residents) calling for the defeat of this absurd tax.  
  • And you can testify at the upcoming RNAG community meeting in January (date & place TBD), the Board of Supervisors public hearing on the RNAG funding plan (February 28, 2017), and the Board’s public hearing on the specific TSD tax rate proposal in March (date TBD). 
Please step up and help stop this unwarranted additional special tax on Reston station area homeowners.

Terry Maynard, Co-Chair
Reston 20/20 Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome and encouraged as long as they are relevant, constructive, and decent.