In Virginia, the distinction between cities, towns and counties can become a bit confusing. Prince William County has within its boundaries two cities (Manassas and Manassas Park) and four towns (Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan and Quantico). While cities are unique municipalities with no shared governance, towns are different.
Those living within a Town are still County residents. They receive the same county services and pay the same county taxes as any other county resident. However, the Town has authority to levy additional taxes on its residents and businesses and use those tax revenues for additional services and capital projects within the town limits.
During her regular meeting with the Dumfries Town Council, Potomac District Supervisor, Maureen S. Caddigan noted “Town residents sometimes think that they are being doubly taxed because they pay taxes to each municipal entity.”
However, she explained that the taxes town residents pay to the County provide the same level of service to residents of a Town as they do to any other County resident. The additional taxes, which they pay to the Town and not the County, are for services that the Town offers which are above and beyond the services offered by the County.
“Serving the Potomac District is a great honor. We have so many active communities and we have strong leadership groups representing those communities,” Caddigan noted. “I meet with the Town Councils, HOA Boards and citizens within the District on a regular basis so that we can discuss their unique needs, and see what can be done at the county level and what can be done at their community level to meet those needs.”
During the meeting, which was attended by the Dumfries Mayor, Town Council members and staff from both organizations, Supervisor Caddigan provided the Town updates on the status of several County projects impacting Dumfries.
The Fuller Heights Park project is under construction and will provide baseball fields for the Dumfries, Triangle, and Quantico (DTQ) Little League. Pictures were shared of the new Montclair Library, which will serve all the residents of the Potomac District.
Also discussed were improvements to water quality and erosion through the County’s work on the Dewey’s Run stream restoration project. Traffic is always an area of interest in Prince William County, and the proposed intersection improvements at U.S. 1 and Va. 234 were discussed. Though these improvements may be years away, staff expressed that these intersection improvements will provide for congestion relief and address safety concerns in the future. Both the County and the Town stated that they will be working to ensure that these projects better serve the community.
Melissa Peacor, Prince William County Executive, brought graphs to demonstrate exactly how the tax dollars paid by Town residents are budgeted. The charts depicted dollar bills divided into several sections. One of the charts showed the breakdown of how county tax dollars are used to help pay for county government activities. The other showed how the average Town of Dumfries tax bill is allocated within the Town.
Peacor said she likes to use the charts, because they break down government spending to give a personal perspective to how their tax money is spent. “I think it’s very important for all citizens to know where their taxes are going.”
Peacor’s “dollar bill” for the County showed that the average annual real estate tax bill in Prince William County stands at $3,392. Most of that (57.23%) goes to County Schools. The next biggest portion is for Public Safety – Police, Fire and Rescue, Jail and Courts. Together school and public safety account for nearly 79% of all County households’ tax bills. County residents can see how their tax bill breaks down using the County’s online tool
and pull up the “dollar bill” graphic by clicking on “details” once the tax bill is generated.
While town residents pay county taxes, they also pay additional taxes for services and expenses chosen to be offered by the town. Residents in towns may pay for town administration, community development, public safety and debt payments depending on how the town structures its government and the services it offers. In Dumfries, residents pay an average tax bill of $396 in annual taxes in addition to the taxes paid to the County. That money goes to run the town, pay for the Dumfries Police Department, fund town programs such as the annual Christmas parade, public works and debt service.