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Prince William’s ‘moonshot goal’ to increase commercial tax base too ambiguous

On September 12th the Prince William Chamber of Commerce hosted its Policy Committee Meeting where we heard and engaged in a conversation with senior Prince William County Staff on the topic of the County’s Strategic Plan and more importantly, discussed the County’s “Moonshot Goal”.

The “Moonshot Goal” is to increase the percentage of commercial tax revenues to 35% of the County’s existing tax receipts. It is the only quantifiable goal in the approved plan, and it is ambiguous. The approved plan did not specify whether the goal was limited to real property taxes or to all taxes paid by businesses. The business community’s share of taxes is currently about 16% of all county real estate taxes, and roughly 24% of all general fund taxes collected.

In 2017 when this goal was first approved by the Board of County Supervisors, the Chamber’s Board of Directors was opposed to it…and, after hearing from County Staff on the “ins and outs” of the proposal, reaffirms that position.

An economic development goal for reducing the tax burden on county residents is laudable but goals should be achievable, strategic and measureable. Rather than relying on real estate taxes at a time when businesses are moving substantial portions of their infrastructure to the internet, the county needs to carefully review its policies and procedures to be sure that the government is strategically targeting those things that are important to the community and consistent with its long term goals. That will mean in large part that the county will update outdated policies and procedures to adapt to the new economy and diversify County revenue streams. In addition to the 35% goal being unattainable, focusing on a specific number for property taxes, like the “Moonshot Goal” will not create a diversified tax base, and will simply add to the cost of consumer goods and services within the community.

The 35% is a measurement, not a strategic goal. We strongly reaffirm our position from 2017 and encourage the Board of County Supervisors to revisit this issue and replace the measurement with a set of achievable, sustainable and measurable objectives for economic growth that will facilitate continued success for the business community and our residents.

Sincerely,

Betty Dean
Chairman
Prince William Chamber of Commerce

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