Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Tysons tax hike could spark revolt

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Opinion,Local Editorial

After dozens of angry Tysons Corner residents spent two hours Tuesday testifying against a special service tax district to pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements, Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova moved to delay the board's final vote until Jan. 8. But this is nothing more than a temporary reprieve before Tysons' property taxes inexorably start ratcheting up.

After voting for the Silver Line and using it as an excuse to triple densities in Tysons, Bulova and her fellow supervisors have no other way to pay the $3.1 billion needed to transform the sprawling suburban office park into a mini-city, which is why they approved the tax district on a preliminary 7-2 vote in October.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, was one of the two who voted against it. He was also the only board member to suggest an alternative -- instead of requiring developers to build below-market "workforce housing" for people making up to $130,000 a year, Herrity suggested the county reduce those proffers by 50 percent and use the savings for transportation improvements. His proposal was voted down.

Bulova called the tax district plan, which will increase property taxes by up to 8.4 percent, "a major step in the right direction for realizing the vision of Tysons." Michael Bogasky, president of the Rotonda Condominium Unit Owners Association, had a different vision: "A nightmare of endless taxation that goes on for 40 years."

That nightmare is not limited to Tysons residents. The proposed tax district will raise $250 million over the next 40 years -- just 11 percent of the total needed. Developers will kick in another $250 million on top of their $865 million in proffers. But that still leaves the county $1.7 billion short to realize Bulova's high-rise urban vision.

In the meantime, Metro officials recently admitted it will cost $4.5 million a year more than anticipated to operate the Silver Line -- part of which must also be paid for by Fairfax County taxpayers. In other words, there's no end of Fairfax tax hikes in sight.

If Tysons Corner homeowners strenuously object to paying for transportation improvements in their own neighborhood, how much more will taxpayers in the rest of the county scream about being stuck with the balance? That's what Bulova and her fellow board members should really worry about.

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