With about a week to decide whether to participate in the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, the Loudoun Board of Supervisors has set one final work session for 5 p.m. Friday, June 29, at the County Government Center in Leesburg to discuss potential ways to pay for it. And late last week, the opposition to the project continued to distribute fliers that say homeowners and businesses “will get buried in debt and taxes.”
The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has offered support for the project as well as new taxes on businesses to pay for it, with a sunset provision.
The fliers left on cars last week join an array of flies left in eastern Loudoun communities in recent weeks. An unidentified group left fliers on cars at a church in Sterling that irked several people. Fliers were also left in the Dulles District recently, according to Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles).
“What should be troubling is, some individual won’t put their name on the information their handing out, but they instead put the offical county seal and they put Loudoun County transit logos on those,” he said. “This whole thing is fraudulent. It should tell you what the quality of those arguments are.”
LoudounOptOut has campaigned against the project and has driven its Tax Pig vehicle around the county to oppose it.
“I went home last night to find the Tax Pig on my street,” Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said during last week’s work session, before the latest fliers were distributed. The fliers stated “FINAL Property Tax Increase Notice” at the top and indicated taxes would be going up.
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) defended the tax pig and agreed with LoudounOptOut’s sentiments.
“In my 13 years, there has never been a more splendid opportunity to spend so much money with so little accountability on the part of the nine people that are making the decision,” he said. “It is the death star of debt and it is the death star of spending. If that pig has more influence than some of us, it’s because that pig worked hard and I salute you tax pig.”
The flier Buona spoke of referenced a tax district that does not appear to be in consideration any longer. During the board’s most recent Metro work session, supervisors signaled their intention to remove the idea of taxing existing residential properties near the stations. The board elected—in reversible straw votes—to remove from consideration two potential tax districts that included all real estate with one- and two-mile concentric circles around the two Metro stations in Ashburn, the one at Dulles Airport and the Route 28 station; the latter two were included because they were within those distances from the county. The concentric circle proposals had been examples presented by county staff off potential districts.
Supervisors also voted—again in a non-binding straw vote—not to use general fund revenue to pay for the project.
An attempt to remove a countywide commercial and industrial tax failed; and a tax district comprised of the county’s eastern planning districts also remains in consideration, after additional votes.
Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) created one district that seemed to appeal the most to those willing to consider a tax district (see picture). It became referred to as the Purple District because of the color of the line used to outline it on a map. The district includes the entire Dulles International Airport property within the county boundaries and commercial properties in an eastern cluster around the planned stations. And while the Purple District excludes existing residential properties, new homes constructed within the district would be taxed. The district would include properties currently within other tax districts.
With the purple district, supervisors are also considering an "inner core district" that is envisioned to benefit the most from rail and therefore pay the highest real estate tax related to rail.
During the board’s business meeting last week, about three dozen people spoke during public input time, all but two of whom spoke about the Metro project. Project supporters have outnumbered opponents in email messages to the board, a recent survey and a previous public input session, but opponents reversed that trend at the input meeting.
In other Metro news, a measure to install a permanent inspector general to keep an eye on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its board of directors won the approval a U.S. House of Representatives Committee last week. MWAA was given the task of constructing the Silver Line project and has come under scrutiny because of the practices of some members of the board of directors. However, a review of MWAA’s oversight of phase one of the project produced no significant concerns.
The $2.7 billion phase two of the project would require Loudoun to pay about $268 million toward construction. While Loudoun is only responsible for 4.8 percent of the costs, that 4.8 percent includes phase one, which is estimated to cost $2.9 billion when complete. Loudoun's share for construction, plus ongoing maintenance and operation are estimated to cost the county $11 million to $18 million in annual payments, depending on financing options chosen, until the construction costs have been paid. After that the county would continue to pay a share of operation and maintenance costs annually. The tax districts under consideration are intended to cover those costs.
More information about the project can be found on the county's website. The county website also provides contact information for members of the Loudoun board.
[Correction: The wrong date was initially listed for the board's final work session. The correct date is now listed.]