Latest tax cut proposal splits supevisors

Supervisor John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco, said he was blindsided by a proposal to further reduce the county tax rate by 3 cents to $1.16 announced Friday by the chairs of the school and supervisor boards.

“That information was not shared with me,” Jenkins told fellow county supervisors at their Tuesday meeting. “When I knew about it was when I read it in the newspaper.”

County executive Craig Gerhart said he sent a voicemail message to all members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Friday.

Jenkins said he did not get it.

But Supervisor Sean T. Connaughton, R-at-large chairman, who coordinated the county board’s efforts with the school board, said the push for a lower rate should be no surprise to Jenkins. The board directed Gerhart to look into going beyond his original proposal to lower the real estate tax rate from the current $1.23 per $100 of assessed value to $1.19 at the first budget meeting.

“People knew we were meeting, it was out in the public,” Connaughton said. School board Chairwoman Lucy Beauchamp met with him and the school board reviewed scenarios at its Wednesday meeting, he said.

The board then debated who knew what and what the new proposal meant, a talk that Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, characterized as geared to political positioning for November elections.

Jenkins said he brought it up for fairness.

“I have been told by members of this board they were polled,” Jenkins said.

“No, I had discussions,” Connaughton said. “Those who wanted to talk about, I put out …”

“I certainly never got a call,” Jenkins said.

Supervisor Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, explained to them the misunderstanding could be her fault: When talking to Jenkins she used the word “poll” when maybe “discussed” would have been appropriate.

“Mr. Chairman, my only concern is we as a board ought to do this as a board,” Jenkins said. “I’m not ready to announce publicly that I’m going to support a $1.16 rate. I want to look at some more options.”

If county staff can put together a scenario under a $1.16 rate, they can do so with $1.15 and $1.14, he said. “That’s what I wanted to see before we started making public disclosure of what we’re considering the tax rate to be,” he said.

Supervisor Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan, who pointed out she is not seeking re-election, said she saw the new proposal as not a stopping point but the new minimum cut, and others agreed it would not be the final number.

“I would venture to say the final number will be less than $1.16,” said Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn, R-Gainesville.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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