Sign In
alert

Trending Searches: Job OpportunitiesParks | Library

News
Skip Navigation LinksHome / PWC News
State of the County is Strong According to Stewart
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
| County News & Features | | | 0 Comments

​Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart delivered his annual State of the County address (full remarks below) on Tuesday, Jan. 9, to open the first meeting of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in 2018.

Stewart noticed the strength of the County and laid out his priorities for the coming year. "New parks, new schools, new roads, and new police and fire and rescue personnel have paid positive returns for the quality of life in Prince William County."

These positive returns include new residents and businesses locating to the county. With a population now at 465,000 Prince William is the second largest county in the Commonwealth, and the county's Department of Economic Development helped to secure a record $2.8 billion in commercial capital investment.

"There is an undeniable connection between economic growth, good schools, low crime, low taxes and quality services and amenities." Stewart said.

The top priority for the Board, according to Stewart, remains public school education. "We dedicate more than 57 percent of county tax revenues to the school system. In 2017, the Board of County Supervisors stepped up to supplement the school system's efforts to reduce class size with $21 million in new funding, including funding to improve and expand the design for the County's 13th high school, which will begin construction in Bristow this year."

Another priority for Prince William County is road construction and reducing traffic congestion. "In 2017 alone, we had 55 active road projects valuing over 500 million dollars," Stewart said. Key projects include completing the widening for Route 1. The next segment, between Mary's Way and Featherstone Road, is fully funded and construction will begin soon, according to Stewart. The projects along U.S. 1 has revitalized the corridor between the Fairfax line and Cardinal Drive according to Stewart.

Other transportation projects include improvements to the new Interstate 66 high occupancy lanes in the western end of the county. The county has also received funding for the construction of a new interchange at Va. 234 and Balls Ford Road, Stewart said.  

Access to parks and recreation also contribute to quality of life in the county, Stewart said. "Since 2012, Prince William County has rapidly expanded its inventory of athletic fields, trails and public parks. In 2017 alone, we invested an additional $15 million to improve our existing parks and recreation facilities, including lighting and turfing athletic fields. There is much more to complete in 2018."

In addition to these capital projects, Stewart highlighted the Board's continued commitment to public safety. "The Board's plan calls for 13 new police officers and 59 firefighters to be hired this year alone. We opened a new fire station in 2017, and will open a new police station in just a couple of months. We purchased land to construct a new fire station on the west end of the county; and we have identified locations for the next eight fire stations to meet the growing population."

All of these service level improvements are critical to the quality of life according to Stewart. Yet, he also noted the importance of cutting costs. Over the past 10 years, Stewart said, the county has undertaken several rounds of cost-cutting reforms that have increased services while reducing the average tax bill adjusted for inflation. "As a result, our average residential tax bill in Prince William County is now 30 percent lower on average than the rest of Northern Virginia."

In other business, the Board chose Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe to serve as Vice Chairman of the Board for 2018. The Board also chose Neabsco District Supervisor John D. Jenkins as Chairman Pro-Tem for 2018.

Additionally, the Board set their agenda meeting calendar for the 2018 calendar year, which can be viewed at www.pwcgov.org/bocs.




2018 State of the County
Chairman Corey A. Stewart

Today, I am proud to report to the citizens of Prince William County that the state of our county is strong. Our persistent investments in new parks, new schools, new roads, and new police and fire & rescue personnel have paid positive returns for the quality of life in Prince William County.  

As our quality of life has improved, we have attracted new residents and new investment. Our population now stands at 465,000, the second largest locality in Virginia. Over the past three years, the County saw a record $2.8 billion in private capital investment. 

There is an undeniable connection between economic growth, good schools, low crime, low taxes and quality services and amenities.   

An important component of our high quality of life is our access to parks and recreation. Since 2012, Prince William County has rapidly expanded its inventory of athletic fields, trails and public parks. In 2017 alone, we invested an additional $15 million to improve our existing Parks and Recreation facilities, including lighting and turfing athletic fields. There is much more to complete in 2018.

The Board of County Supervisors has made education a top priority.  We dedicate more than 57% of county tax revenues to the school system. In 2017, the Board of County Supervisors stepped up to supplement the school system's efforts to reduce class size with $21 million in new funding, including funding to improve and expand the design for the County's 13th high school, which will begin construction in Bristow this year.

While this is a good first step, we must cooperate more closely with the School Board to ensure that your tax dollars are spent as efficiently as possible.

That is why this past year, we created a joint Capital Process Team comprised of School Board members and Board of County Supervisors members to coordinate land acquisitions for future schools.

Another critical service for our residents is road construction and reducing traffic congestion. In 2017 alone, we had 55 active road projects valuing over 500 million dollars. One key project is the continuation of our 20-year reconstruction of Route 1. This year the County will rebuild and widen Route 1 between Annapolis Way and Mary's Way. The next segment, between Mary's Way and Featherstone Road, is fully funded and construction will begin soon.  Once complete, the County will have revitalized the Route 1 corridor from the Fairfax line to Cardinal Drive. Another key project, the widening of Minnieville Road between 234 and Spriggs, will be completed this year. In western Prince William, the massive improvements to I-66 will continue, with the addition of new high occupancy lanes. And to help alleviate congestion on the 234 bypass, we are excited to announce that Prince William County has secured funding for the construction of a new interchange at 234 and Balls Ford Road.

But there is much left to do, and Prince William County--which boasts the most aggressive road construction program in Virginia—calls on the state and federal governments to do their part. For years, VDOT has studied possible solutions for reducing congestion on Route 28. The time for studying is over.  Our citizens demand that this bottleneck be fixed. The Commonwealth must choose a solution, fund it, and get to work. On the eastern side of Prince William, the I-95 express lanes have been lengthened, but the bottleneck remains. We must press upon our state and federal delegation the urgent need to widen the I-95 main lanes from the Occoquan to 234. 

Something that must never be compromised is our commitment to public safety. Even during the depths of the recession, when nearly every other facet of our local government was being cut, the County continued to add more police and fire fighters to improve the response time between a citizen's call to 911 and the arrival of emergency personnel. The Board's plan calls for 13 new police officers and 59 firefighters to be hired this year alone. We opened a new fire station in 2017, and will open a new police station in just a couple of months. We purchased land to construct a new fire station on the west end of the county; and we have identified locations for the next eight fire stations to meet the growing population.

This investment has made our community safer. Prince William County now has one of the lowest crime rates in the Greater Washington, D.C. region with an average of 13.7 crimes per 1000 residents. And while we saw an unusual spike in the number of homicides in 2016, we had only four in 2017.  

Hiring, training and equipping new police and fire and rescue personnel is expensive and necessary. But it is of little benefit if we are unable to retain those personnel, and too many of our public safety personnel are leaving the County for jobs with neighboring jurisdictions and the Federal Government. To that end, last year we approved a budget increase for the Virginia Retirement System hazardous duty multiplier; we increased the public safety retention supplement for uniform personnel in years two through nine; we implemented a one-time signing bonus for uniform personnel; and we adopted the Public Safety Resiliency Program. But the retention problem remains and we must do more.

That is why the Board directed staff to obtain a consultant to conduct a Public Safety Recruitment and Retention Study. This is a comprehensive organizational and compensation review of all of our public safety agencies. Recommendations from that review will be presented to the Board as part of the upcoming budget discussions, and we must take whatever actions are needed to ensure we are able to recruit and retain men and women to serve our community and keep Prince William County safe.

In the end, however, all these services must be delivered to residents efficiently to keep local tax bills as low as possible. On the federal level, Congress enacted last month the most extensive tax restructuring since 1986. While this legislation provides overall federal tax relief to residents, it also caps the state and local tax deduction at $10,000. To offset the impact of this cap, local and state governments are therefore called upon to limit the tax burden on their citizens. 

Over the past 10 years, Prince William County has engaged in several rounds of cost cutting and reforms that have improved County services while, remarkably, decreasing average tax bills when adjusted for inflation. As a result, our average residential tax bill in Prince William County is now 30 percent lower on average than the rest of Northern Virginia.  

The County remains, however, overly dependent on residential real estate taxes. And for many residents, a portion of these taxes (when combined with their state income taxes) will exceed the cap and will no longer be deductible from federal taxation. We owe it to our residents, therefore, to redouble our efforts to limit the growth of government and pursue our own tax restructuring here on the local level. And we must do so while maintaining and improving core county services. 

I feel lucky and blessed to live in Prince William County and to represent you. My hope is that each and every one of you has a safe, happy and prosperous new year. May God bless you and your families, and may God bless Prince William County.

Comments ()
Please log-in with your Facebook account to post comments. Comments will be visible upon approval. Please note that comments containing inappropriate language, personal attacks or other content not suitable for a general audience will not be published
Please sign up or

GET NEWS FROM PWC

Sign up to receive County newsletters and information. Enter your email address below to get started!

Disclaimer

You are now leaving the official Prince William County Government website.