by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

8 March 2013, p. 18

“Transportation funding and sequestration are two important issues facing Prince William County, Corey Stewart told more than 200 members of Prince William Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon in Continental Events Center, Manassas, on Feb 20.  Stewart is chairman and at-large member of Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

“Also addressing the group were Andy Harrover, Manassas vice-mayor; Frank Jones, mayor of Manassas Park; and Milt Johns, chairman of Prince William County School Board.  Moderator was Bernie Neimeir, president and publisher of Virginia Business magazine.

“Stewart explained that by 2017, Virginia will have no funds for new road construction; by 2018, there will be no money to maintain existing roads.  Since the state will not be able to provide matching funds, it also will lose federal funding.  He suggested his audience put pressure on the General Assembly to address the problem.

” ‘We’re the only jurisdiction in the state that has its own road-building program,’ the speaker pointed out.

” ‘The impact of sequestration will be unbelievable.  It will cost Virginia 200,000 jobs, most in Hampton Roads and in Northern Virginia.’

“Harrover agreed on the impact of sequestration on the area. ‘It will be bad,’ he remarked.  The vice-mayor said an iportant issue in Manassas is keeping a balance between residential and commercial revenues.  He added the city does a good job in this area.

“Jones contended sequestration would cause a loss of 20 percent of area residents’ disposable income and impact sales and gasoline taxes. ‘The impacts will be disproportionately high here,’ Jones explained.  He said the housing market has recovered but questioned what a 20-percent slash in disposable income will mean for the area.  ‘Transportation needs to be in the hands of the localities,’ he commented.

“The main issue facing county schools is growth, according to Johns.  ‘There’s no cap on the number of students,’ he remarked.  He pointed out a population change has necessitated greater emphasis on special education, free or reduced lunches and English as a Second Language (ESOL).  He noted these programs cost more than that of a general education student.

“Asked about visions for their jurisdictions, Stewart contended a road to Dulles International Airport has ‘been a growth factor for a long time.’  He said the bi-county parkway [also known as the tri-county parkway] is important to both Prince William and Loudoun counties, two quick-growing and wealthy jurisdictions.  ‘Any time you drive from here to Loudoun, it’s tough as nails,’  [Stewart said], calling the road network ’19th century.’

“Stewart also reported $58 million will be spent to widen US 1 in eastern Prince William County and a $68-million portion of the road has been improved in the Triangle area.  ‘We’re getting 10,000 new residents each year, and education and transportation are key,’ he observed.

“Harrover agreed the road to Dulles is crucial for Manassas residents.  ‘You can’t get there from here,’ he advised.  ‘It’s all about regional connections.’

“Jones reported Manassas Park ‘is in good shape,’ and that its oldest school dates from 1999.  The jurisdiction also has a new fire station and a new police station.  Manassas Park residents ‘must be able to move’ on area roadways.  He called the region’s road network ‘woeful,’ adding there ‘needs to be a regional approach to transportation.’

“Johns explained the school district is dealing with a changing work force and a focus is being put on careers of the future.  ‘The focus is on technology,’ Johns said, noting the county offers robotics, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, and interactive and on-line courses.’

“Asked how a jurisdiction would get new economic development, Stewart observed that ‘interconnectivity is the key,’ and that jobs that might go to Manassas or Manassas Park should not be seen as a loss to the county.  The chairman said that in 2006, 16 percent of the county’s revenue came from commercial realty.  Today, it’s 23 percent.”

[PWCBG editor’s note:  Many Prince William County citizens, including PWCBG, believe that Prince William County is overly dependent on residential housing for tax revenues, which leads to unnecessarily high tax burdens for county citizens and a  limited, low-opportunity local economy with relatively few high-income jobs and few high-tax-revenue producing businesses.  For more info on that topic, see:   Media Reports On Balanced Growth.   Also note that, per the county’s own revenue records, in 2012 14% of real estate revenue came from commercial real estate taxes and almost all of the rest (82%) came from residential real estate taxes.  So Chairman Stewart’s contention above that commercial real estate now accounts for 23 percent of county tax revenue is demonstrably false.  See attachment, pp. 24 and A9 (overall pp. 30 of 66 and 47 of 66, respectively) for details and historical statistics on the commercial-residential real estate tax ratio:   PWC_Real-Estate-Assessments-Annual-Report-2012.]

“Jones reported Manassas Park set up zones to create incentives for business.  He also said he would like to see VRE bring workers to the area instead of just take local employees elsewhere for their jobs.

“Harrover explained Manassas created a committee of land use and economic development and has ‘a complete package of incentives’ ready for new businesses.  The city also has an economic development director and has reworked its economic development web site, he added.

“Questioned on how technology has improved efficiency, Johns pointed to online education and virtual classes.  He said some students learn best outside a traditional classrom.

“Jones spoke in favor of Internet education, explaining his son went to college with 15 credits.  He said some pupils believe learning is fun.  Manassas Park has set up a technology committee to improve the use of IT and has created a joint meeting with council and school board on the subject.

“Harrover, who does IT consulting as a career, reported the city’s zoning and code enforcement departments have laptops and are mobile.  He added that in the wings is a $1 million program to overhaul IT in  city hall.

“Stewart quipped that one of the advantes of IT is that he now knows when his two sons have homework.  ‘It keeps parents connected,’ he said of the technology.  The county is moving increasingly to cloud computing, which necessitates fewer software upgrades for county computers.”