In her monthly newsletter for February, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins wrote a two-page article stating, “there has been so much information – and misinformation – about who is paying for what regarding the Reston transportation (sic).” Of course, the missing word is “tax.”
And although Supervisor Hudgins alleges there has been “misinformation,” she makes no attempt to identify any inaccurate information, much less correct it. In the absence of other published information, we assume she is speaking about our letter in the Reston Connection a month ago (Jan. 4-10, 2017, p. 5) discussing the absurdity of a new Reston road tax. In fact, all the information provided in that op-ed is analytically and/or factually accurate.
What Supervisor Hudgins proceeds to do is re-hash the financial presentation repeatedly presented by the Transportation Department (FCDOT) to her hand-picked citizens committee as well as the community. The result is a one-sided Tetra-esque sales pitch for why the homeowners and businesses in the Reston station areas — from Centerville Road to Hunter Mill Road — should pay a special property tax starting at $.021/$100 valuation so the county can make $350 million in street improvements over the next four decades to accommodate the coming high-density development. In short, it provides half the story.
The other half of the story focuses on fallacious assumptions and failure to match benefits to contributors although there is much more that is incomplete or less than fully accurate in Hudgins’ pitch. We’ll just focus on two of the most egregious shortcomings of her article.
The entire argument for adding a special Reston road tax is based on the absurd assumption that there is a $350 million “funding gap.” To her credit, Supervisor Hudgins does not mention that phrase in her article, because there is no gap. It is a creature of FCDOT’s imagination and phony county math.
Why is the assumption phony? Because the board could easily move the less than $9 million per year needed from anywhere else in the county’s $4 billion annual budget; because the board could pay for the needed improvements out of the $11 billion in property tax revenues it will generate from development in these areas; and because — in a “worst case” scenario — it could infinitesimally increase any of several existing county tax rates to garner the funds.
In short, there is no “funding gap.” It was created by FCDOT to justify adding another special tax on Restonians, the county’s cash cow.
And, of course, Supervisor Hudgins letter does not address how the new Reston road tax funds will be spent. Only $45 million of the total $350 million will be spent on improving intersections. The remaining 87 percent will go to fleshing out the “grid of streets.” For the most part, these funds will be used in building grid streets at the periphery of the Reston station areas near Centreville Road and beyond Reston’s post office. These areas are beyond the transit-oriented development (TOD) half-mile circle.
These roads — and the development that will go with them — would not be built in the absence of the tax because developers do not think developing the surrounding property would otherwise be profitable. From your pocket to developers’ profits. Worse, the tax-subsidized development will generate more traffic, not relieve congestion as Hudgins and FCDOT claim is the purpose of the tax. In fact, worse traffic congestion is the explicit goal of the plan as the level of service standard is lowered.
So, if you want the full story, please make sure you read our earlier op-ed in the Reston Connection or take a look at the Reston 20/20 blog. If you think the proposed Reston road tax is another Reston rip-off, let Supervisor Hudgins know. Also, please sign our petition to stop the road tax on Change.org.
Thank you for considering the whole Reston road tax picture.
Co-Chair, Reston 20/20 Committee