Potomac News Online | Lower tax rate coming to Manassas Park

Officials in Manassas Park are planning to lower the city’s real estate tax rate for both the upcoming fiscal year and the current one.

On Tuesday, City Manager Mercury Payton unveiled a revamped fiscal 2006 budget proposal built around a real estate tax rate of $1.27 per $100 of assessed value. That’s down from the $1.33 rate used last year.


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The city is also planning to retroactively lower the tax rate to $1.29 for the second half of fiscal 2005, which runs from January to June. Real estate tax bills are sent out twice a year, and the next bill due for city residents would reflect the lower rate.

The tax rate reductions don’t necessarily mean lower bills for the city’s residents, however.

Because of skyrocketing real estate assessments, Manassas Park will take in about 18 percent more in real estate tax revenue in fiscal 2006 than it did in 2005, despite the lower rate, Payton said.

According to the current budget proposal, Manassas Park would have about $35,261,522 in general fund revenue for fiscal 2006, said Jeff Raines, a management analyst with the city.

The increased revenue would allow the city to add some new positions — such as adding a deputy chief to the fire department — and also cover things like the rising cost of employee health care, Payton said.

Also, the money coming into the city would allow for some departments that may have been under-funded in 2005 to catch back up, he said. Last year, the city implemented a revenue-sharing agreement with the school system that channels 57 percent of city funds to the school system. While the agreement was necessary and beneficial for the schools, it left the city with a lean budget, Payton said.

“The city went through an adjustment period in year one of the revenue-sharing agreement,” he said. “Now that we’re in year two, we’ve become used to what that means for the city. With the increase in revenue, we’re able to better fund the departments for their day to day operations.”

An increase in revenue despite a reduction in the tax rate is a pretty common situation for municipalities in Northern Virginia.

Across the region, county supervisors and city councils have been lowering real estate tax rates to partially compensate for the region-wide growth spurt in assessed real estate value. And the average increase in assessed value in Manassas Park was more than that of any other nearby jurisdiction.

The assessed value of homes in Manassas Park increased by 28 percent on average during 2004. Nearby, homes in Prince William County increased in value by an average of 23 percent, and the assessed value of homes in Manassas increased by 26 percent on average.

As a result, Prince William County is proposing to lower its real estate tax rate to 92 cents, Manassas to at least $1.05.

Manassas Park officials are quick to point out that comparing Manassas Park’s rate to those of other jurisdictions isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. For example, the county separates fire and trash levies that are rolled into the real estate tax rate in Manassas Park, Councilwoman Noreen Slater said.

“Everyone tries to compare Manassas Park to Prince William and Manassas, but there are major differences,” Slater said. “They have a much higher industrial and commercial base than we do. What we can do is look every citizen in the eye and let them go through the books to see that every dollar we spend is well-spent.”

There will be a public hearing on the proposed changes to the real estate tax rate on April 12 at the City Hall in Manassas Park. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the rate change on April 19.

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