Advertised Does Not Mean Actual

This morning, I was reading the front page story in this week’s Leesburg Today (oddly, with no link to it on their website), “Budget Rhetoric Heats Up”, that described the debate that ensued in Wednesday’s Finance committee meeting. Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles) alluded to the contentious nature of this meeting on his blog this week, and staff writer Erika Jacobsen Moore expanded on it in her article.

At issue is the advertisement of a maximum tax rate for 2011 of $1.33, a rate which would be necessary to fully fund the proposed budget submitted by Schools Superintendent Edgar Hatrick, along with the necessary programs for the rest of the County.The confusing part of the whole controversy is Supervisor Lori Waters’ actions in the Finance committee meeting. According to the Leesburg Today article, Mrs. Waters was concerned that citizens would immediately consider the advertised maximum tax rate as a tax increase (we’re currently paying a rate of $1.30 per $100 of assessed value). Nevermind the fact that this is a high end for a rate, and that normally, we don’t end up with that as our final rate. Negotiations, assesment data, funding from the state, etc., all combine later in the year to usually adjust our rate below that of the advertised rate.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) had a rational consideration, to word the advertisement in a way to ensure that residents see it as an “upper limit”, not the actual rate.

“I am concerned about people intentionally taking the advertisement as a decision by the board,” he said.

And that’s exactly what happens when it comes time for citizen input. The Loudoun County Republican Committee will marshal their forces and complain loudly (and incorrectly) that this is yet another tax increase. They do it every time. They’ll do it again. And Supervisor Waters has already started the misinformation campaign, mentioning in the meeting that “(g)oing to $1.33 would increase my own taxes by $468″, even though the tax rate has not increased.

Yes, it’s political grandstanding; I understand that. And with grandstanding comes attempting to use data to your side’s advantage. But to intentionally and deliberately misrepresent information that will be transmitted to residents, in order to rile up the masses is simply irresponsible. Supervisor Waters should know better than that.