When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created a new tax district in Tysons Corner last month to help fund transportation projects, they said they had no choice but to include both residential and commercial properties.
Many Tysons residents opposed the tax district, arguing that it is developers, not the current residents, who will reap the benefits of the new roads.
Now, Vienna Del. Mark Keam (D-Dist. 35) is aiming to change state law to offer the county more flexibility on how it structures its Tysons tax district.
“My goal is to make sure that we remove any excuses about state law,” Keam said.
Counties already have some ability to create tax districts that apply to commercial property only, but they must be voluntarily created by the landowners.
As they did for the special tax districts helping fund the Silver Line, at least 50 percent of the commercial property owners within the proposed tax district must petition the Board of Supervisors, asking to be taxed.
Business leaders in the Tysons Partnership determined that would not be feasible for a new tax district to fund transportation, so the Board of Supervisors opted to impose a different type of tax, known as a service district, that applies to all property owners.
Keam said he has received dozens of letters and phone calls from constituents asking him to adjust the state law.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is supporting the legislation because they generally support giving more flexibility to local governments,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the board’s Legislative Committee.
“We’re having a hard time explaining to people why we can’t set a different rate for residents,” McKay said. “It’s kind of a ridiculous reason ... it should be the responsibility of local government.”
The county attorney’s office helped in drafting the bill, McKay said.
If it moves forward, Keam’s proposed legislation would apply only to Tysons. He had originally proposed broader legislation but is working to narrow the scope in hopes of getting it to pass in the General Assembly.
Other legislators “are sympathetic with what I want to accomplish,” Keam said, but are expressing caution about setting a precedent.
Focusing on Tysons creates a new challenge, however, Keam said. The bill must receive a supermajority vote of two-thirds of legislators to pass, rather than a simple majority.
“It’s a tough, tough haul to ask that special legal authority be given,” he said.
McKay said he understands the strategy of limiting it to Tysons in order to get something passed, but the county would like to see the same flexibility extended to other areas.
“We’re going to have unfinished business if it goes through that way,” he said, “If the state continues to not fulfil its responsibility on funding roads, we might have to rely more in the future on these service districts.