Subject: Assessment increase
March 27, 2002
Dear Ms. Hanley and Mr. Frey:
We wish to protest the precipitous increase in the real estate assessments of 16.3%. We request that you roll back the assessment rate of $1.23 per $100 of assessment to a lower rate commensurate with the inflation rate for this area. My wife and I have been homeowners and taxpayers in Fairfax County since 1968 when we initially moved into a new home in Greenbriar. We moved to a new home in Franklin Farm subdivision in 1984.
The recent Notice of Assessment Change from Fairfax County indicated that our tax assessment has increased 18% or $764 for 2002. Last year the assessment increased 12% or $468 and the previous year increased 11% or $376. In three years, our assessment has risen by 41% or $1,608 which is outrageous! According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index increased 1.6% in 2001, 3.4% in 2000, and 2.7% in 1999 totaling 7.7% for three years. The current year’s inflation rate is running around 2%. The Washington Times reported on 3/15/02 that the average home in Fairfax County is approximately $278,432 for 2001 or an increase of 11.7% over 2000 and was $256,883. In 2000, the increase was 6.6%. In 1999 the average house was $241,064 or 3.6% increase over the previous year’s average of $232,025. When you add up the percentages for three years, it totals a 21.9% increase, which is substantially below my total 41% increase for three years. In addition, the population growth was 2.2% in 2000, 1.4% in 2001, and projected to be 1.5% for 2002 which totals 5.1% for three years. Therefore, the county should limit spending increases to inflation and population growth that averages about 4.5% per year instead of the 16% average assessment increase. We are both retired so our income remains rather constant while our taxes continue to soar!
The overall Fairfax County budget is an estimated $2.5 billion for 2002, which is about 8% over last year’s budget. For the past four years, the budget has been increasing about 7% per year. As a past civic activist from many years ago, I have noted a trend in Fairfax County spending since 1975. The rate of increase each year in the county budget usually exceeds the inflation rate by two to three times. If this year’s inflation rate is around 2% and the projected budget increase of 8%, then Fairfax County will far exceed its record of increases by four times!
We did file a protest to the Department of Tax Administration recently on our assessment based on two major factors. We were informed by the tax office that we had a good case. The first item has to do with the fact some of the homes in our immediate neighborhood sold without finished basements for a lower price. Subsequently, in many cases long before they are sold, the owner has the basement completely finished or other major improvements made either by himself or a contractor without obtaining proper permits. The county fails to pick up this information and continues to show the assessment of the property with no finished basement or improvements, thus resulting in a lower assessment. The house is subsequently sold for a higher price because it has been updated and improved. The county should pick up this information from multiple listings by the realtors since this information is then used to assess our house higher because it was purchased with a finished basement. This certainly is not fair to the homeowner who has followed all the rules and has been paying his real estate tax based on an unequally applied higher assessment. The homeowner with the unreported illegal improvements not only pays lower taxes but also suffers no penalties because of his illegal act.
The second issue is that the county is assessing our house (Maplewood model) the same rate as the largest house built by the builder ( Laurelwood model), which is about 300 square feet larger than ours. Our assessment should be lower based on the fact that our house has less square feet than the largest house constructed by the builder. We have made no interior improvements to our house since it was purchased in August 1984. We don’t object to paying our fair share but we are being overtaxed so we will soon reach the time when we cannot afford to stay in our house. This matter should be carefully reviewed and rectified.
In conclusion, we urge you, as a responsible elected official to institute sound fiscal responsibility and good management practices. You should treat the county budget as you would your own personal budget. Therefore, we recommend not to dramatically increase taxes, but instead make judicious budget cuts now. As one of our greatest President’s Thomas Jefferson once said,"I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest dangers to be feared." Sincerely, Charles R. McAndrew Linda L. McAndrew cc: Mr. Gerry Hyland, Vice Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Ms. Penelope Gross, Supervisor,
Ms. Catherine Hudgins,
Ms. Sharon Bulova,
Mr. Dana Kauffman,
Mr. Gerald Connolly,
Ms. Elaine McConnell,
Mr. Stuart Mendelsolm,
Mr. Anthony Griffin, County Executive, Fairfax County Government
Mr. Kevin Greenlief, Director, Department of Tax Administration, Fairfax County
Mr. Edward Long, Director, Department of Management and Budget, Fairfax County
Mr. Arthur Purves, President, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance
Mr. James Parmelee, President, Republicans United for Tax Relief