As the Loudoun Board of Supervisors begins a series of outreach meetings about the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, much of the long-awaited information about parking needs and possible project financing methods has been presented to the board and negotiations may truly begin.
Possibly the key discussion residents and supervisors had been waiting for centers on how the county would pay for such a project.
Staff members described two tools that could be used in a range of scenarios to pay for the project. The primary new sources of revenue under consideration include a countywide commercial and industrial, or C&I, tax along with a service district tax for properties within one or two miles of the rail stations. Variations were also shown at increments down to zero C&I or service district taxes. In addition, discussions include the possibility of seeking legislation to tailor a custom tax district around the Loudoun Metro stops.
“What is interesting is in some of these scenarios we don’t have to use any general funds whatsoever,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). “To the degree possible, we need to place the bulk or the lion’s share on the those that reap the most benefit.”
A C&I district would tax all properties in commercial or industrial zones, excluding apartment buildings, regardless of location in the county, while a service district would tax all property within a specified distance from the rail stations, including all residential real estate. The scenarios presented by staff showed combinations of using those taxes along with the county’s share of a regional gas tax and general fund revenue.
Some supervisors balked at the idea of instituting new taxes, particularly anything that would apply to a business far away from the rail stations.
“I’ve never seen so many skunks and rats involved in the public process in my entire 12 years” as supervisor, Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said, accusing some board members of conspiring about ways “to skin the public.”
Delgaudio’s name had come up earlier when Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the board was dealing with a decision made by prior boards, including a 2002 statement of support for the project that won Delgaudio’s vote.
Volpe asked staff to confirm assertions that Loudoun would not have to contribute to bus related operating, maintenance or capital expenses as part of its annual contribution to WMATA. A recent discussion with WMATA representatives did not result in clarity for several board members. Such costs would be of great concern to her constituents, Volpe said, because rail provides no direct benefit to them, but it could impact their taxes.
“It won’t make a darn bit of difference on the value of my home or anyone in my neighborhood,” she said, adding that the project would not benefit businesses in Sterling who may wonder why they should pay a C&I tax.
Scenarios discussed during the work session included a C&I tax of 10 cents per $100 of assessed value and a “rail district” tax of 9 cents. Other variations include when the taxes would start, the size of the rail district and at what time such taxes would be rolled back. Some scenarios did include the use of the general fund dollars. Additional scenarios also involved higher and lower tax rates for the C&I and service districts.
For more information and a list of upcoming meetings, visit the county's web page about the project.