[PWCBG mass e-mail 9 April 2022 to county citizens]

Fellow citizens:  

The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by Alan Gloss, the leader of a group that filed suit in 2020 against the five Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Dems for holding a meeting in May 2020 that violated Virginia’s transparency-in-government/open meetings laws.  Here’s a newspaper article with more details.

And here’s a request from Alan’s group for funding to help cover legal fees for the Supreme Court case:  View update.   Any amount you can contribute would be appreciated.  We support their efforts in our county to minimize corruption and ensure the rule of law, which is a key building block of civilization and one of a handful of things that consistently separate prosperous and successful modern nations from those that are not.

You might find it interesting to note that Prince William County Attorney Michelle Robi, arguing for the five BOCS Dems in county court in 2020,  defended the illegal May 2020 meeting by arguing that it was not actually an offical government meeting but instead a private meeting.  Then Robi filed a retaliatory lawsuit against Alan’s group after their case was dismissed by a county court.  In this retaliatory lawsuit, Robi completely reversed direction and argued that the defendants (Alan’s group) should pay all legal fees for the county because the five BOCS supervisors were, in fact, attending what she now described as an official county meeting.  In other words, the County Attorney was now openly mischaracterizing and defending an illegal meeting and, at the BOCS Dems’ behest, trying to retaliate financially against a private group that was merely trying to ensure adherence to the state’s transparency/open meeting laws.  Robi’s lawsuit was unsuccessful.

“The biggest disease is [political] corruption; the vaccine is transparency.” — Bono 
“Corruption is paid by the poor.” — Pope Francis

Here’s an earlier article we wrote on this case when it was still in the county courts. 

And now we turn to the Prince William County Budget.  Since the new BOCS Dem majority took office in Jan 2020, the county budget has increased by $335 million from $1.148 billion to a planned $1.483 billion in 2023, a whopping 29% increase in two years (and three budget votes.)  This increase does not include at least $82 million in federal Covid aid to the county government in 2020-21, per county records.  This budget will be approved on 26 April 2022, Tuesday, at the evening meeting starting at 7:30 pm, unless the BOCS hears — and learns from — a groundswell of opposition.

On 17 February, Supervisor Vega’s office sent us the following report titled “The County Budget:  Impact on Taxpayers & Public Safety By The Numbers.”  Font colors and sizes are same as in the original report.

Board [Democratic] Majority’s Proposed Budget
On Tuesday, the Board Majority voted to advertise a real estate tax rate of $1.05 per $100 assessed value
The Board Majority also advertised a new 4% meals tax on Prince William County’s small business owners and consumers already burdened by record inflation.
Click here to see the proposed budget.
Even with an increased tax bill this year and $106 million in new spending, this budget still does not address the serious issue of a lack of police officers. We will still be hundreds of officers short of the required number of police officers per Prince William County resident.
Officers Shy of 2021 Level of Service Standards = 229
Number of New Officers Hired = 0 (zero)
If adopted, the size and power of the Prince William County Government will have grown 6.6 times population growth in the last five years. That’s not including the hundreds of millions of dollars received in the last couple years from the federal government.
General Revenue Increase Since FY18 = 33%
Population Increase Since FY18 33% 5%
Should the advertised rate be passed, the average residential tax bill (real estate tax + fire levy) will have increased $760 since COVID began. The average household will pay $1,465 more than if tax bills had just been kept flat since the pandemic started.
Pre-COVID Average Tax Bill = $4,488
Average Tax (Proposed Budget) = $5,248
Tax bills in the county have increased faster than home values. Since 2006 (the last time the average home value was near this price), the average home value has increased 9%, but the average tax bill has increased 62%.
Average Home Value – 2006 = $429,745
Average Home Value – 2022 = $466,739 (+9%)
Average Tax Bill – 2006 = $3,257
Average Proposed Tax Bill – 2022 = $5,248 (+62%)
Supervisor Vega’s Budget Proposal
Last evening, Supervisor Vega proposed a 12% real estate tax cut.
This was defeated on a 5-3 vote.
Current Tax Rate Vega = $1.115
Vega Proposed Rate $0.98
Supervisor Vega also voted against the majority’s proposed tax rate.
In Supervisor Vega’s proposal:

Homeowners would see a reduction of $388 from the current rate of $1.115.
Homeowners would pay $93 less than last year.
This would be the first real tax bill cut since 2009 and the first time the rate has been below $1 since 2008.

Supervisor Vega also proposed scrapping the plan to implement a new 4% meals tax on county restaurants and consumers.  This was also defeated on a 5-3 vote.

Under a $.98 real estate tax rate, county revenue would still increase by $49 million over FY2022.  Without the new 4% meals tax on restaurants and consumers, county revenue would still increase by $81.5 million over FY2022.

Click to read InsideNova’s recap “Prince William County taxes likely to go up again” [and a Potomac Local report.]

In a statement, Supervisor Vega reiterated her commitment to defending Prince William County families and taxpayers despite the setback on the advertised tax rates:   “It would have been nice to have given assurance to our residents with the first real tax cut in more than a decade. However, I will continue to fight on their behalf against the desires of some to see Prince William County government increase in power and scope. Even without increasing taxes on our homeowners and restaurant consumers, county government revenue is still projected to increase by tens of millions of dollars over last year. We can afford to give our taxpayers a break for once.”

Conclusions:  As we’ve observed the new BOCS Dem majority since Jan 2020, we’ve noticed several pronounced tendencies in their governance:  

First a tendency to vote in lockstep on almost all major BOCS decisions.

Second, disregard for the opinions of any citizens but those with whom they completely agree (almost always including developers), thus disregard for any opinions but their own.  Since taking office, they have continuously ignored majority west county and mid-county citizen input, including on local land use issues, even though it has typically been expressed publicly and almost unanimously by hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of ordinary citizens.  One example among many is Supervisor Boddye campaigning hard in 2019 for preservation of the Rural Crescent (RC) then, within about a year of taking office, completely reversing his stance and shamelessly claiming in a Prince William Times interview that preserving the RC is “a form of segregation.”  Was he a segregationist before he was elected to office in 2019? (His pro-RC stance in 2019, unique among all the Democrat candidates, helped him win a very close election by a few hundred votes.)

Third, disregard for the rule of law, good government, and open, democratic traditions, as seen in the upcoming Virginia Supreme Court case noted above.  Other examples, as we’ve noted in previous messages and on http://pwcbg.org, include Chair Wheeler’s repeated attempts during Covid to eliminate citizens’ First Amendment rights to attend and address the BOCS, to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances at BOCS meetings and county government buildings elsewhere, as well as her attempts even to muzzle unfavorable press coverage.  She also used the two-year “state of emergency” (Mar 20-Mar 22) to push through all sorts of non-emergency, controversial government decisions, often very late at night or in the early hours of the morning, to make it as difficult as possible to attend for citizens who had to work in the morning, could not easily connect virtually, or were concerned about exposure to Covid in public.  … Not to mention Supervisor Bailey’s attempts to use the police to harass ordinary citizens with whom she disagrees, though not so much to fight crime.   To us, all this makes the BOCS Dems look way too focused on accumulating power instead of serving all the county’s people and doing the greatest good for the greatest number.

Fourth, despite endless lip service to the interests of the poor and underserved, the BOCS Dem majority in actual economic practice and policy decisions has repeatedly done major damage to the interests of the poor and underserved.  Major real estate and business tax increases every year by this BOCS are an indirect regressive tax that increases rents, home ownership costs, consumer costs, and hardship for the middle class, employers, and those who can least afford it, the poor.  This is especially noxious during times of great economic hardship for many … and especially without any accountability to you.

Contact the BOCS at BOCS@pwcgov.org and let them know how you feel about the Dem majority’s attempts to disenfranchise you as a citizen & taxpayer, and to create an increasingly intrusive and heavy-handed county government.  Let them know how you feel about them confiscating your hard-earned money and squandering it on any hobby horse scheme or trendy political dogma that suits their fancy. Feel free to share this message linked here via email, social media, etc.

We believe that diapers and politicians, especially politicians who are doing the things described above, should be changed often; both for the same reason.

Yours truly,

Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth
Only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured,
while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.