Tysons, VA

Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Extends Deadline for Real Estate and Vehicle Tax Relief — Seniors over the age of 65, people with permanent disabilities, and renters may be eligible for tax relief. Applicants must file between Jan. 1, 2021 and May 3, 2021, though exceptions may be available if a late filing is due to a hardship which prevented the application from being filed on time. [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Office]

New Pedestrian Trail at McLean Metro Station Now Open — “The trail starts on Magarity Road, near Westgate Elementary School and the Pimmitt Hills neighborhoods, running through Scott’s Run Stream Valley Park and Westgate Park toward the Metro station. Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for Fairfax County, said the county started construction on the $4.5 million trail in July 2019 and finished this last December.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Chief Medical and Technology Officer for Tysons Nonprofit Discusses COVID-19 Response — “MITRE helped form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a private-sector led response that brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups to preserve the healthcare delivery system and help protect U.S. populations.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Falls Church Theater Company Offers Scholarships — “Providence Players of Fairfax (PPF) is offering up to (3) $1,500 scholarship opportunities to college-bound, graduating seniors. Application requirements & details are published on the PPF website under About Us- Community Outreach. The application deadline is April 30, 2021.” [Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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The Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination proposed a process for establishing a five-cent plastic bag tax during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Committee meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 8).

According to OEEC Deputy Director Susan Hafeli, legislation adopted by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year now gives the county the ability to adopt an ordinance imposing a five-cent tax on most disposable plastic bags provided by grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores.

As of right now, the state has not established specific guidelines for the creation of a plastic bag ordinance. Instead, the state intends to wait until a locality adopts an ordinance to consider guidelines, according to the presentation.

Revenue collected from the new tax would be appropriated for environmental clean-up, mitigation of pollution and litter, education, and the provision of reusable bags to recipients of a federal food support program, according to Hafeli.

The proposed plastic bag tax could generate annual aggregate local revenues of between $20.8 to $24.9 million statewide, though the tax may be more of an “impetus to behavior change rather than a revenue generator,” Hafeli said.

Across the region, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission Waste Management Board has begun exploring the issues laid out in the legislation, according to Hafeli. Additionally, Arlington County is planning to convene a public workgroup in early 2021 to discuss the adoption of a plastic bag tax and issues regarding equity in the county.

The OEEC anticipates that the process of determing whether Fairfax County should instate a plastic bag tax will occur in two phases. The first phase will focus on public engagement, which would include developing a website, holding one or more workshops for input, and releasing an electronic survey.

The second phase will focus on the development of the ordinance and would involve updating the webpage with the proposed ordinance and requests for comments, giving presentations to the board, and holding a public hearing, according to Hafeli.

Several supervisors expressed concerns about the confusion regarding state guidelines, equity issues within the community, and the ability to collect sufficient research on the topic, especially in the midst of the pandemic.

However, most supervisors agreed that the environmental issue with plastic bags is significant, and that data from other jurisdictions, including the work that Washington, D.C., has done around the Anacostia River, has shown a plastic bag tax to have positive environmental effects.

Moving forward, the Board is looking to clarify the state’s policies while working in conjunction with regional partners and plan for further conversation on how to create the ordinance.

The next Environmental Committee meeting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 11 a.m.

Photo by Brian Yurasits/Unsplash

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Fairfax County officials are in the early phases of considering the implementation of a five-cent tax on plastic bags.

In March, the Virginia General Assembly passed a state bill that allows municipalities to collect taxes on disposable bags. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill on April 10.

Jurisdictions can levy taxes on disposable plastic bags given by grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores. Tax revenues are allocated for environmental cleanup, pollution and litter management, educational programs to reduce environmental waste, and the funding of reusable bags to recipients of federal food support programs.

The Virginia Department of Taxation estimates the tax could generate between $20.8 million to $24.9 million in annual aggregate local revenues across the state.

A board matter approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in late July also directs the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination to create a plan to implement the plastic bag fee next year.

In a Nov. 30 memo to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said county departments are currently “exploring the issues associated with development and implementation of a plastic bag tax ordinance.” Other jurisdictions like Arlington County have cited concerns about adopting the tax amid a pandemic due to equity-related issues.

Hill noted that several ambiguities in the state’s ordinance need to be addressed.  For example, the ordinance does not explicitly define what constitutes a convenience store and offers scant information on how tax commissioners will enforce the tax and issue penalties for non-compliance.

“At least at this time, there appears to be no mechanism to contest a retailer’s categorization short of a court challenge and sufficient facts to support a locality’s different categorization,” Hill wrote.

The county anticipates launching a public engagement process, including public meetings and an online survey, to gauge input on the move.

If the Board of Supervisors directs staff to create a plastic bag ordinance, county departments would launch a second public engagement process and consult with county entities like the Environmental Quality Advisory Council prior to consideration by the board.

The board will discuss the issue at an Environmental Committee meeting tomorrow (Dec. 8).

Photo by Griffin Wooldridge/Unsplash

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Technical issues with Fairfax County’s car tax payment portal drew ire from residents this week, forcing some to make payments in-person and adding to already long lines for early voting.

In response to website issues, the county has waived penalties and interest on personal property payments made by 11:59 p.m. today (Tuesday).

According to Tony Castrilli, the county’s communications director, the county is working with its vendor to resolve the issue. “To make adjustments that will ensure as many payments as possible can be processed,” he said.

Some residents said the issue compounded already long lines at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway).

Payments can be made online, by mail, by phone, and in person. Payments postmarked on or before today (Tuesday) are considered on time.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” Castrilli added.

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Friday Morning Notes

Tysons Library Name Dropped in Restauranteur Memoir — “He mentioned Albert Camus’s ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ — he remembers reading it as a teenager at the library in Tysons Corner, Va, where he grew up…” [New York Times]

Capital One Center Wegmans Slated for Early November Opening — “The Wegmans location at the Capital One Center campus in Tysons is slated to open on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 9 a.m.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Outlines Online Car Tax Payment — “Avoid the lines October 1-5! Pay your car taxes online. See all ways to pay including online, by mail, by phone, in person or drop off.” [Fairfax County]

Tysons-based MicroStrategy CEO Defends Choice to Invest in Bitcoin — “Before the Covid-19 crisis, the Tysons Corner, Virginia-based company had about $500 million mostly invested in short-term U.S. government securities. Saylor began to question that conventional strategy when yields tumbled in the wake of the pandemic. ” [Bloomberg]

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Despite anticipation of a steep drop off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Vienna has managed higher revenue on its meals tax than expected.

The meals tax generated 80% revenue for the first month of the new fiscal year, July, compared to last year. During pre-pandemic months, the monthly average for meals tax was $250,000, while July’s revenue came in at $194,000.

While there have been concerns for lower meals tax through the upcoming colder months, the generated revenue has left the town “pleasantly surprised,” according to finance director Marion Serfass. In preparation for a steeper drop off, the town budgeted for 50% of the pre-pandemic revenue.

Since March, five restaurants in the town have either moved or closed, while only one has reopened.

A contributing factor for the steady meals tax has been the stable business for drive-thru and high-end restaurants. During the pandemic months, there has been “no noticeable” drop off for drive-thru restaurants compared to previous meals tax revenue. The assumption for the trend is that people feel safer utilizing drive-thru restaurants, according to Serfass.

The meals tax revenue — a 3% tax on each meal sold — is used to pay back bonds issued for capital improvement projects.

Though the revenue has been higher than expected and the town is gradually recovering from the effects of the pandemic, there are still concerns about how local businesses may be affected by the pandemic if it stretches into next year.

In a discussion on Tuesday with Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, and various business and economic leaders, Town Economic Development Manager Natalie Monkou cautioned that businesses might need to adjust to the ongoing health crisis.

“We’re anticipating the health crisis to continue into 2021 and we want to be able to help our business community pivot,” Monkou said.

File photo

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Why More and More Families in Tysons are Calling High-Rises Home — “High-rise housing is often portrayed as places for the young and childless. Housing for transient young adults before they move out to the suburbs to start families. But Tysons shows that this stereotype leaves out a large number of families who live in high-rises.” [Greater Greater Washington]

No Car Decals in This Fall’s Tax Bills — “Falls Church Treasurer Jody Acosta reported to the F.C. City Council Tuesday that the personal property tax bills being issued this fall will not, as in the past, include decals to be placed on car windshields.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Creative Cauldron Director Wins Another Helen Hayes Award — “Matt Conner, the prolific composer, writer, director and performer for Falls Church’s own Creative Cauldron theater company won a highly prestigious D.C. Metro [region-wide] Helen Hayes Award for Best Director of a Musical for his work on the Cauldron’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” earlier this year.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Vienna Kids’ Friendship Bracelet Sales Feed Families In Need –“The sisters’ efforts making bracelets over the summer helps an initiative of restaurants feeding families during the pandemic.” [Patch]

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The Vienna Town Council has new measures to help businesses and residents struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last night (Monday), the council approved extending the deadline for real estate taxes, along with changing the town’s meal tax provision, according to a town press release.

“Even though the Town has its own significant, pandemic-related financial impacts to address, Town Council wants to make what temporary changes it can to assist our restaurants and property owners,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco said in the press release.

Now, the first 2020 installment of real estate taxes in the town will be due on Aug. 28. Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors also extended its real estate tax deadline to August.

As for the meal tax, the town adopted an emergency ordinance that will be in effect from April 14 to June 13, the press release said.

“For the next 60 days, through June 13, the Town will waive any penalty and interest fees for late payments. In addition, the Town will increase the on-time payment discount from 3% to 10%,” the press release said, adding that restaurants pay collect meal tax payments from diners to the town.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved today (Tuesday) giving taxpayers more time to file and pay their taxes.

Now, individuals and businesses in the county will have until June 1 to file their personal property tax returns. Additionally, the first half of payments for real estate taxes won’t be due until Aug. 8.

“Both these resolutions are intended to alleviate the negative impact threatened by the potential spread of COVID-19,” according to county documents.

“I’ve been asked a lot about this since a lot of folks in the county have found themselves without paychecks,” Chairman Jeff McKay said.

McKay said that people won’t accrue late fees for following the new deadlines.

By pushing the deadlines, the county will likely be delayed in receiving tax revenue, according to the county. However, county staff said that the benefits to the community by pushing the deadlines outweighs potential impacts on revenue.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors kicked off its first meeting in 2020 by voting to support equal taxing authority.

Yesterday (Tuesday), Chairman Jeffrey McKay and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw jointly proposed asking the General Assembly to support equal taxing authority.

Currently, counties have less taxing authority than cities and towns in Virginia.

“The local tax structure in Virginia has become outdated, and limitations on counties’ ability to raise revenues from diverse sources has resulted in an over-reliance on property taxes to fund core local government programs and services,” according to the board matter from McKay and Walkinshaw.

McKay and Walkinshaw argue that counties would be able to invest more in education, transportation, public safety and human services with equal taxing authority.

“Virginia relies more on local taxes and revenues for funding government services than most other states,” the board matter says. “Relying too heavily on one source of revenue leaves counties vulnerable to downturns in the real estate market and population shifts.”

The Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) has been pushing for equal taxing authority for the 2020 General Assembly session. Montogomery County’s board recently voted to support equal taxing authority.

“Having served on the VaCo board for a number of years, this is one of the few issues that we can truthfully say has overwhelming support from virtually every county in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” McKay said before the vote.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity — the only Republican on the Board of Supervisors — disagreed.

“It does not have overwhelming support in the Springfield District,” Herrity said. “I think what we have is more of a spending problem than a revenue problem.”

The board voted 9-1, with Herrity voting “no,” to support the proposal.

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