The area with the largest increases was the Town of Quantico, whose home values shot up 42 percent on average, mainly because county assessors conducted door-to-door inspections to update home improvement records. In 2000, residences in the town had an average value of $74,800, according to census data.
The same was true for Manassas.
“With the lower-valued properties, a lot of activity there — and premium prices being paid for condos and town houses,” said John Grzejka, tax commissioner for Manassas.
Georgetown South went up 30 percent from $79,000 to $103,000, giving that area a 50 percent increase over the last two years on average and Bristoe Station town houses increased from $111,000 to $143,000, a 29 percent increase, he said.
“On one hand their home is doing a lot better than any stocks they may own in the market, that’s for sure,” Grzejka said.
In the last three years, Prince William real estate values on average increased 18.6 percent in 2002, 10.4 percent in 2001, and 6 percent in 2000.
Homeowners were mailed their annual reassessments on Friday.
The assessment is used by local governments for tax bills on the real estate tax rate. How much or if to lower the rate in the fiscal budget year that begins July 1 is a question expected to dominate budget talks in Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park over the next two months.
“We recognize that this year brings some challenges because of the increase in revenues,” said Sean T. Connaughton, R- at large, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “We’ve been able to speed up our plans regarding schools, roads, employee compensation and public safety. The board is going through the overall budget right now and we’ll have the opportunity to examine further reductions in the tax rate.”
Schools and roads have been huge budgetary pressures for Prince William: Over 10 years it added 15,600 students and 15 new schools through 2002 and predicted 10,500 more students over the next five years.
County voter-approved road bonds, the last one in 2002 for $86.7 million that includes upgrades to Minnieville Road, the parkway at Old Bridge Road and U.S. 1 improvements add debt payments into the county budget. For example, debt service on the county parkway is $6.5 million annually, or 2.5 cents on the real estate tax rate.
One penny of the real estate tax rate translates to $2.7 million in county revenue.
The county’s revenue-sharing agreement splits any new dollars 56.75 percent to schools and 43.25 percent to general government.
Connaughton said taxes cannot be allowed to grow into a true burden, but the lowering of the real estate tax rate, now at $1.23 per $100 of assessed value in Prince William, has to be balanced with effects later on in the county’s five-year budget plan.
The county rate is recommended to be lowered to $1.19 in the staff budget.
The rate in Manassas City is $1.20, and the proposed budget holds it steady.
But many elected officials this year will be calling for larger cuts in the rates because of the slow economy — and it is an election year for county supervisors.
Supervisor Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan, who is not running again, said the employment market is as worse as it’s been in years — with residents out of work or worried they might be.
“I think we’re just going to have to moderate our appetite for catching up,” she said. Prince William added 4,570 homes last year and she estimated the infrastructure costs to support them at roughly $40 million for schools, police and fire — the money isn’t coming from developers and homeowners shouldn’t be forced to pay all the costs, she said.
Griggs said the state is not providing enough revenue for roads and schools — forcing Prince William to spend its own money to fix state roads like U.S. 1 and secondary roads like Minnieville Road.
“On some level the state has boggled that ball,” she said.
Richmond lawmakers promised to take up tax restructuring after elections in 2003.