Letter to the Editor: Is There An Additional Member of the Stafford Board?
George Schwartz is a Stafford County resident and former chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
A recent announcement by Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Bill Howell stated that he and Stafford County Supervisor Susan Stimpson are Stafford County’s leadership team.
Wait just a minute. The elected leadership of Stafford County is, and always has been, the Board of Supervisors.
Does Speaker Howell also believe he is a member of the leadership team for Fredericksburg?
In making this announcement via a four page color mailed brochure, this new 2-person leadership team put forth several of their accomplishments.
For example: “Stafford repealed the BPOL tax on businesses, making Stafford more business friendly.”
That is a false hypothesis. The Business, Professional and Occupational License tax was approved by the Democratic Board of Supervisors (BOS) in July 2008, and rescinded before it could take effect, by the Republican BOS in January 2010. BPOL was designed to protect small businesses, while raising millions to offset some of the tax burden of property owners.
In the intervening four years there has been little new substantive retail business in Stafford County. Empty storefronts abound. In the meantime, BPOL jurisdictions Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg and other BPOL jurisdictions have continued to attract business after business.
The BOS Republicans were forced to hire the Washington-based The Riddle Company to find out what kinds of business Stafford needs and how to attract that business. Riddle reported that Stafford’s “most apparent challenge is the lack of population density. Stafford is not competitive when you compare the total population in the top regional markets, and retailers like dense markets.” The price of pandering to business is costing Stafford citizens millions of annual BPOL dollars (approx. $120 million over 20 years) of revenue; money that should be available for schools, transportation and fire-rescue.
There is minimal new business in Stafford with which residents can relate. There are few new Stafford business doors open to the public. To add insult to injury the Stafford BOS, through the Economic Development Authority, is gifting, unnecessarily, $75,000 to a new retail chain that is actually coming into the county. Giving tax money TO a business?
Another accomplishment: “Virginia made substantial investments in transportation last year to take advantage of low interest rates” and “Increased funding for (Stafford) voter-approved transportation and recreation projects.”
Borrowing money for transportation is absurd. The House of Delegates has successfully stonewalled all attempts to approve any plan to insure a dedicated debt free annual revenue stream for road construction and maintenance.
Governor Warner and Sen. Chichester's plan to produce $2 billion dollars a year was killed by Speaker Howell and the Republican House. As a consequence Virginia has the worst maintained and weed ridden roads compared to other states. Stafford County is a weed garden.
VDOT needs $21.1 billion over the next 25 years to maintain our interstate system. Governor McDonnell is looking at revenue of just $40 million from tolls on I95. The plan that was killed would bring in $50 billion over 25 years. That leaves $30 billion for bridges and all other roads. Problem solved!
In Stafford, there has been no additional funding for transportation and recreation projects. In fact, voters approved the use of BPOL money to help pay for debt service for the transportation bond. Oh, wait. BPOL was rescinded against the voter’s orders.
Another accomplishment: “We have cut real estate taxes 3 years in a row, saving (Stafford) residents almost 12%.”
While simultaneously making pronouncements that county funding is tight and constructing budgets to reflect that financial approach, the Republican BOS lowered taxes a penny or two at a time, providing taxpayers with minor tax savings but costing the county millions of dollars in revenue for three years in a row and many years forward that should have been appropriated toward our seriously under-funded schools, transportation and fire-rescue budgets.
Throwing away multi-millions of Stafford dollars is not a sound financial plan, particularly at a time when the state is reducing its funding for localities. Tax is not a four letter word. Governments survive because of tax revenue. Maintaining and improving our quality of life requires constant review of the tax structure.
George Schwartz is a former member and chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors