We are truly saddened by the shocking event that took place last week in Connecticut. We have the reasonable expectation that our children will be safe at school as we send them off each day. It is impossible to plan for every scenario, particularly for something like this. In the wake of this tragedy, I wanted to pass on a message from the Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent that details the security measures that have been implemented as they have been working with local law enforcement to increase security at our schools. Also linked here is a parent resource for addressing acts of violence in schools, which parents can discuss with their children. Our hearts and prayers are with the grieving families who lost loved ones and the community as a whole who are feeling the effects of this tragedy.
I want to address the Board of Supervisors’ focus on economic development. According to a study by the Loudoun County Economic Development Commission, for every dollar in county tax revenue, residential costs $1.62 in services while commercial only costs $0.38 in services. Loudoun’s residential-commercial imbalance has led to one of the highest property taxes south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In addition to the need for property tax relief, Loudoun also needs revenue to fund the growing needs of the school system and other priorities, such as new athletic fields. According to a 2012 community survey, 57% of respondents work outside Loudoun County, so any long-term solution to our traffic issues must include more jobs closer to home.
To address the urgent need for more economic development, the Board took action this year to reorganize the Department of Economic Development (DED) to be more of a ‘sales force’ for Loudoun. The reorganization also included a budget enhancement to hire more staff to target commercial development. Currently, DED has identified six target ‘clusters’ for growth in Loudoun:
- Biomedical/Biotechnical (Life Sciences),
- Federal Government Contracting,
- Information and Communication Technology,
- International and Transportation, and
- Warehousing and Logistics.
As DED moves forward to execute our strategy of increased focus on business development, we will be looking specifically to expand this cluster strategy to diversify our local economy. Additionally, Loudoun has developed a cross-departmental ‘Business Assistance Team’ to act as an ombudsman for businesses seeking to expand their physical footprint. Finally, as a Board we encourage residents and the business community to support and participate in the recruitment of businesses to Loudoun.
As I mentioned last month when discussing new building permits, the economy here in Loudoun County is growing healthier. In addition to new building permits, hotel revenue and retail sales in Loudoun are up significantly over 2011. Foreclosures are still an issue, but they are trending towards a lower number than 2011. In the fall of 2011, Loudoun’s unemployment rate stood at 4.4% and now it currently stands at 4.0% (compared with a 5.6% rate overall for Virginia). The only economic indicator that has been down compared to 2011 is both domestic and international passenger traffic at Dulles Airport; however that decline has not appeared to adversely affected the hotel and service industry associated with the airport. While it is early in the fiscal year, tax revenues for FY13 look to be up about 4% to 5% over FY12, which indicates a healthy and growing local economy.
The owners of the Greenway have filed an application with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to raise tolls by 10 cents next year. The SCC comment period on the Greenway’s application will be open until January 14th. I am bringing an item to the next Board of Supervisors meeting asking the Board to take a position against the increase as well as convey that position to the SCC. You can file your own comments against the increase by clicking here: Public Comments (Case No. PUE-2012-00136, Application of Toll Road Investors Partnership, II, L.P., for an increase in tolls). The high tolls on the Greenway are already a great expense and they inflict an unfair financial burden on Loudoun commuters. Additionally, the high tolls have caused traffic diversion from the Dulles Greenway, leading to major traffic impacts on Waxpool Road, Route 7 and Route 28. Instead of increasing tolls, the Greenway should pursue strategies that would encourage more traffic volume.
At our business meeting on December 5th, the Board officially adopted an ordinance enacting the Metrorail Service Tax District. The adopted tax district can be viewed on this map. This district includes two sub-districts (the Route 772 Station Service District and the Route 606-Aiport Station Service District) which will continue in service to pay operational costs after the overall service district pays off the capital costs. Almost all currently occupied residential units in close proximity to the stations are outside of the district (except for about thirty residential condos on the south side of the Greenway next to the Route 772 station and seven existing residential parcels). The final passage of the tax district resolves any concern of imposing a service tax district on large communities, like Broadlands, and other existing residential subdivisions close to the stations. This tax district allows Metrorail to be financed chiefly by the property owners who stand to benefit the most.
As always, please feel free to call me at 703-771-5088 or email me at email@example.com with any questions. Enjoy this holiday season, and I wish you all the best in the coming New Year!
Transportation Project Spotlight
Dulles Rail Project/Dulles Toll Road Tolls
As part of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ adopted legislative program for this upcoming 2013 Virginia General Assembly Session, the Board is pursuing an initiative that, if approved, would have the Commonwealth of Virginia undertake the moral obligation for credit support of the approximate $500 million in Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) revenue bonded indebtedness for the Dulles Toll Road. This initiative would not require any additional expenditure by Virginia, but instead would be in effect providing the Commonwealth’s credit rating to the Dulles Rail debt. This moral obligation umbrella translates into lower interest rate costs for retiring MWAA debt from the toll revenue bonds backed by the Dulles Toll Road. These lower interest rates could significantly cut any need for future toll increases. I would encourage you to contact your Delegate and Senator and ask them to support this crucial initiative to help cap toll costs for Northern Virginia commuters. Click here to find their contact information.
Community Events and Information
Ashburn Volunteer Fire & Rescue Pancake Breakfast: The next monthly breakfast will be from 8:00 a.m. to noon on Sunday January 6th (Ringing in the New Year). For more information, including cost, please click here.
Donation Drop Boxes: The holidays are a time for giving, but occasionally what started out as good intentions becomes an unsightly mess as charity donation boxes are littered with old mattresses and garbage bags full of donated items. If you notice that one of these locations looks like a dumping ground, please utilize the VDOT online complaint system to have it cleaned up, as most of these drop boxes are located in VDOT jurisdiction. County staff will regularly check those that are on private property and ensure the owners maintain the area. Let’s keep Loudoun beautiful!