Rate of Spending and Residential Growth is Hard to Defend

The following letter was sent to members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on March 6.

First, I want to thank Supervisor [Ralph] Buona for his leadership in not raising the salary for the Board two years ago.  The vote was largely symbolic since the increase wouldn’t have even dusted the surface of the budget, but significant in it’s value as to what our leaders are made of, and sets us off as being different from the other surrounding counties, that our leaders follow the example of our Supreme Leader Christ who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

I would also like to thank our Broad Run District Supervisor [Ron] Meyer for his kindness in being a good Samaritan to John A. Schloegel who was struck and killed by a reckless driver on Gloucester Road last November.  Very unfortunately, VDOT was the lofty priest who refused to put up the traffic signal lights on a timely basis. The lights became operational over two months after the tragedy.

Supervisor Meyer also wrote a very helpful piece on our AVCA HOA monthly magazine regarding the potential for more than 4400 additional townhouses in our area over and above 1200 townhouses that are already zoned to be built around future Metro stations coming to Ashburn.

Please vote against 4400 additional townhouses next year because that’s another 8700 cars (5800 townhomes combined) on Rt 7, Waxpool, and other arteriolar roads here in Loudoun and beyond heading east, as well as going north and south on Rt 28.  Our roads can’t sustain nor our commuters tolerate that kind of additional volume of traffic not to mention the numerous more hateful potholes & pothole road stretches that drivers will have to carefully & mentally map-out to avoid.

As for the quality-of-life issue, Loudoun shouldn’t be about just putting up bricks and siding. It takes communities being thoughtfully built up with volunteering spirit of watchful and responsible homeowners.

5800 townhouses that are slated to be built, unless the Board reverses course, can’t evolutionize into becoming amazing communities as some would like to believe it could be done with dazzling granites, hardwood, and alluring options. My family personally experienced living in a “townhouse canyon” for over seventeens years in another town in Loudoun before moving to Ashburn.  I can testify to the horrible environment it created for our children growing up, bullying, bus bullying etc, and I wouldn’t wish what we went through on any family of any socio-economic background.

Regarding the budget, though I did not attend the public hearings after I finished filing my family’s tax forms, I dove right into studying the eight-to-ten figure budget numbers of our County to get all my facts and figures straight so that I can be on the same pages with you, our leaders, in this discussion.

Some interesting findings were as follows:

  • Compared to FY 2011, our current proposed FY 2018 budget will have grown by $1.1 billion.
  • Taypayers’ portion, in the same period,  will have grown by 54% from $860M to $1.3 billion
  • Loudoun County School OPERATING Budget willl have grown by 60.7% from $718M in FY 2011 to $1.15 billion in FY 2018 proposed budget.
  • Superintendent Hatrick’s average per year increase the last 3 years before he retired (FY 2013-2015) was 31 M.
  • Superintendent Williams average per year increase for the subsequent 3 years (including proposed FY 2018 reduced amount) is 51.6 M.
  • The average of the last six annual property tax payment on our modest property from 2011-2016  (which we moved in 2013) is $6472.
  • On Loudoun County official website, it states that the average assessed value of a single family home in 2017 is $454,700.
  • This year my property assessed value is $564,650 which is about $60-$70,000 less than the current market value.
  • Per Zillow, the median price of homes currently listed in Loudoun County is $567,000.  When I did a Realtor.com search of all single family units on sale here in Ashburn, including all zip codes of about 180 homes listed, over 80% of them were listed above $567,000.

Obviously from the above analysis, the average assessed value of $454,700 does not reflect the actual assessed values in Ashburn.

It’s like saying: the average family size in United States in 2016 is 3.14.  That is just statistical average.  Likewise, the statistical average tax bill of $5160 (proposed .01135 x 454,700) is illusive to detached dwelling homeowners in Ashburn.  As I mentioned above, the tax bill is consistently in the $6K or more.

As a comparison, I checked out our neighboring Fairfax County FY 2018 budget.  I noted on their website that their advertised General Fund is balanced:

Loudoun County Public school population is  currently 78,665, which is 42% of FCPS population of over 186,000.  In Fairfax advertised FY 2018 budget, the General Fund transfer out to school operation is 2.7 % increase or $51.7 million over FY 2017 adopted budget.  The Superintendent had requested a 5.7% increase of $108 million and the school board had marked it up to $112.5 million. Their property tax is currently $1.13.

Loudoun County’s current proposed FY 2018 school operational budget increase of $93 million over FY 2017 budget represents 8.8% increase over FY 2017 school operational budget. The local transfer (taxpayers’ portion) of $61 million is also an 8.8% increase over FY 2017 local transfer.

Based on the above analyses, my argument is that even a 3% to 3.5% increase in Loudoun County school operational budget over FY 2017 budget is, quite frankly (and disproportionately compared with Fairfax County), very generous. That translates to $32M- $37M increase over FY 2017 school operational budget of $1,061,354,996.

Though our current proposed budget will increase “only” by 3.4% over FY 2017 budget, as my marketing professor lectured, a small percent of a large number is a lot.  That 3.4% equates to $82 million.  Last  three years Loudoun County averaged an annual budget growth of  $213M.  Can we sustain that kind of growth without at some point being smacked with a major tax hike?  I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Shouldn’t we slow the growth for that proverbial rainy day or the one that reigns?  Does anyone doubt that there could be a foreseeable shutdown instead of a “shutdown”?

Finally, I would also like to thank our full Board of Supervisors.  As I reviewed all these numbers, I developed a greater respect for the many meetings you have to attend.  I know that you are doing it mostly as volunteers, and we appreciate your service to our niche-y county.  May the Lord of this County Jesus Christ bless you.

Grace Tan