Fact Checking Corey Stewart’s Record on Taxes
There’s a lot of rhetoric going back and forth about Corey Stewart’s record on taxes. Fortunately, Corey has been in office for a long time and has a voting record we can check. That’s right: I brought receipts.
There are three specific claims about Corey Stewart I want to look at:
1) That Corey Stewart lowered taxes
2) That Prince William County has the “lowest tax bill” than any “county” in Northern Virginia
3) That Prince William County was the first county to remove county fees for a CCW permit
CLAIM 1: Corey Stewart’s Voting History on Taxes
Here are the facts. In the past 10 budget votes, Corey Stewart has:
– Voted 2 times to increase both the tax rate AND the tax bill (2010, 2012);
– Voted 3 times to increase the tax rate (2009, 2010, 2012);
– Voted 6 times to increase the average tax bill (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016);
– Voted 6 times the same way as the Democrats on the Board (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015);
If you’ve ever followed local politics, you know there are two numbers to consider: the tax rate and the average homeowner tax bill. Due to rising property values and assessments, a homeowner can end up owing more in taxes even if the rate stays the same, or even in some cases if the rate goes down. It’s also true that even if the “average” tax bill stays the same or goes down, some people may still face a tax increase. The best thing to do is go year-by-year, look at both and consider the context.
For each year, I try to link to a news report that provides useful context for the vote. If none is available, I link to the budget summary that has all the numbers. In addition, I link to the actual motions and votes recorded for each budget. The tallies abbreviate each Supervisor’s last name; Stewart is represented as “Sw.” Each vote is for the upcoming year; a vote in April 2015 is for FY2016.
On April 28, 2009, the County adopted a $1.212 tax rate, an increase of $0.242 and a 25 percent increase from the previous year. Due to declining home values, this represented no change to the average taxpayer bill. The vote passed unanimously.
ANALYSIS: Corey Stewart (along with the rest of the Board) voted yes to raise the tax rate, but did not vote to raise the average tax bill.
On April 27, 2010, the County adopted a $1.236 tax rate, an increase of $0.024 and a 2 percent increase to the tax rate. This represented a $74 increase to the average taxpayer bill, or around a 2.5 percent increase. The vote was unanimous.
ANALYSIS: Corey Stewart (along with the rest of the Board) voted yes to raise the tax rate, and also to raise the average tax bill.
On April 26, 2011, the County adopted $1.204 tax rate, a decrease of $0.32 and a 2.5 percent decrease from the previous year. This represented a $78 increase to the average taxpayer bill, or about a 2.5 percent increase.
Yes: Stewart, Nohe, Caddigan, Covington, Jenkins, Principi
No: May, Stirrup
Of note, May & Stirrup introduced a proposal for an even lower tax rate that would represent a decrease in the average tax bill. The proposal failed 2-6:
Yes: May, Stirrup
No: Stewart, Nohe, Caddigan, Covington, Jenkins, Principi
ANALYSIS: The conservatives on the Board (Mike May and John Stirrup) wanted to provide tax relief to county residents. Corey Stewart, along with moderate Republicans Nohe, Caddigan, and Covington, and Democrats Jenkins and Principi stood against them.
Corey Stewart took two votes here: first, he voted against a tax cut that would’ve not only reduced the tax rate but provided tax relief to the average tax bill. Second, he voted for the tax rate cut that resulted in an increase in the average tax bill.
On April 24, 2012, the County adopted a $1.209 tax rate, an increase of $0.005 and about a 0.4 percent increase from the previous year. This represented a $102 increase and about a 3.2 percent increase to the average tax bill.
Yes: Stewart, Nohe, Caddigan, May, Convington, Jenkins, Principi
Of note, Democrat Frank Principi proposed to raise the tax rate even higher to $1.215. This was rejected 3-5, with Corey Stewart voting against the even higher tax increase:
Yes: Principi, Jenkins, Caddigan
No: Stewart, Candland, May, Nohe, Covington
ANALYSIS: Corey Stewart (and all the Democrats) voted yes on the tax rate, which means that Corey voted to raise the tax rate and also to raise the tax bill. The only “No” vote was from conservative Pete Candland (who was elected to the seat John Stirrup vacated). Corey did vote against an even higher tax rate, though.
On April 23, 2013, the County adopted a $1.181 tax rate, which is $0.028 decrease, which is about a 2.3 percent decrease from the previous year. This represented an increase to the average tax bill of around $76, or around 2.3 percent increase from the previous year.
Yes: Nohe, Caddigan, May, Jenkins, Principi
No: Stewart, Candland, Covington
ANALYSIS: The conservative Gainesville Supervisors (Stirrup/Candland) voted against the last two increases to the average tax bill. This time, Corey Stewart joined in. This is the first example of Corey voting against a tax increase that passed. This vote also took place less than a month before the 2013 GOP Convention where Corey Stewart was running for Lt. Governor (he would finish in 3rd place).
On April 29, 2014, the County adopted a tax rate of $1.148, which is a $0.033 decrease or about 2.7 percent decrease from the previous year. This represented an increase of about $154, or about a 4.5 percent increase to the average tax bill.
Yes: Stewart, Nohe, Caddigan, Covington, Jenkins, Principi
No: Candland, May
ANALYSIS: After losing the GOP nomination, and with re-election another year away, Corey Stewart reverts to the norm and votes with Democrats to raise the average tax bill, helping it pass over the objections of two conservative Republican supervisors.
On April 21, 2015, the County adopted a tax rate of $1.122, a $0.026 decrease or about a 2.2% decrease from the previous year. This represented an increase of about $139, or a 3.9% increase in the average tax bill.
Yes: Stewart, Nohe, Caddigan, May, Jenkins, Principi
No: Candland, Lawson
ANALYSIS: Same as the year before, Corey Stewart voted with Democrats to raise the average tax bill, helping it pass over the objections of two conservative Republican supervisors (Mike May voted for this budget, but conservative Pete Candland was joined by Jeanine Lawson, who was elected to replace Wally Covington).
On May 6, 2016, the County adopted a tax rate of $1.122, which was the same as the previous year, so neither an increase nor a decrease. This represented a $77 increase, or a 2.1 percent increase in the average tax bill. Chairman Stewart, with the conservative wing of the Board, voted in favor of this, which means that Chairman Stewart voted to keep the tax rate as is but increase the average tax bill.
Yes: Stewart, Candland, Nohe, Anderson, Lawson
No: Caddigan, Jenkins, Principi
ANALYSIS: The debate in 2016 was whether to spend more money, largely driven by the School Board’s request. The five Republicans (with Ruth Anderson having been elected to replace Mike May), including Corey Stewart, voted to keep the tax rate flat, even though it resulted in the average tax bill going up. The two Democrats and Maureen Caddigan voted no, as they favored a higher tax rate. This is the first time that a Gainesville Supervisor voted for a budget since 2010.
On April 19, 2017, the County adopted a tax rate of $1.125, a $0.003 increase or a 0.2 percent increase from the previous year. This represents $71 increase, or a 1.9 percent increase to the average taxpayer bill.
Complicating matters, the budget also called for an additional fire levy at $0.0792. While the county’s budget has this as a separate line item, the effect is a tax rate of $1.2042, an increase of $0.0792 or 7 percent from the previous year. Supervisor Anderson voted to reduce the fire levy down to $0.0742, which failed 3-5:
Yes: Anderson, Candland, Principi
No: Stewart, Nohe, Lawson, Caddigan, Jenkins
The vote for the tax rate, which including the fire levy represented a higher tax rate, passed on a 6-2 vote:
Yes: Anderson, Lawson, Nohe, Caddigan, Jenkins, Principi
No: Stewart, Candland
However, the final county budget vote (which puts the tax rate into effect) failed on a 4-4 tie:
Yes: Lawson, Nohe, Caddigan, Jenkins
No: Stewart, Candland, Anderson, Principi
At the end of the meeting, a compromise was reached where minor road funding would be moved from one county account to another. The BoS then voted against to approve the budget (and the tax increase) and passed 6-2:
Yes: Stewart, Lawson, Anderson, Nohe, Caddigan, Jenkins
No: Candland, Principi
ANALYSIS: Over the course of these votes, Corey Stewart voted against lowering the fire levy (tax), but also against the increase to the tax rate. Corey voted against the budget’s passage the first time, but voted for the budget’s passage (along with the increased tax rate) the second time. Voting for the final budget, rather than standing firm and negotiating more, could be viewed as voting for an increase to the tax rate and average tax bill. I do not include it as such in the vote summary above.
On April 24, 2018, the County adopted a tax rate of $1.125, which was the same as the previous year, so neither an increase nor a decrease. The Board also voted in to increase the fire levy tax from $0.0792 to $0.08, resulting in a total tax rate of $1.205, up from $1.2042 the previous year, which is an increase of 0.06 percent. The tax rate represents a $132 increase to the average tax bill.
The vote to keep the tax rate flat passed 6-2:
Yes: Anderson, Candland, Caddigan, Lawson, Nohe, Principi
No: Stewart, Jenkins
The vote to raise the fire levy tax by $0.0008 passed 5-3:
Yes: Anderson, Candland, Caddigan, Lawson Nohe, Principi
No: Candland, Stewart, Jenkins
ANALYSIS: In the midst of a statewide nomination contest for Senator, Stewart voted against keeping the tax rate flat (which would increase the average homeowner tax bill) and also voted against increasing the fire levy tax.
Ten Year Summary:
In the past ten years, the average tax bill in Prince William County has steadily increased (along with assessed values), and the tax rate slowly dropped a little, before slowly climbing back up again. Over those ten years, Corey has voted more often than not with Democrats on the Board, half the time resulting in more taxes paid by his constituents, and several times voting to raise the tax rate in order to do so. Corey switches over to being a fiscal conservative in years when he’s running for statewide office, including the past two years.
CLAIM 2: Does Prince William County have the “Lowest Tax Bill” of any county in Northern Virginia?
The PWC Government site even has handy charts to document this claim.
The first thing you notice is that it includes only some jurisdictions: the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Arlington, and the City of Alexandria, but not the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax, nor Manassas and Manassas Park. In addition, it doesn’t include neighboring counties Stafford and Fauquier for reasons that become evident. As it turns out, Prince William has a higher tax rate than most Northern Virginia localities.
Fairfax City: 1.06
Prince William: 1.205
Falls Church: 1.355
Manassas Park: 1.403
But the claim isn’t about tax rate, it’s about average tax bill. As everyone knows, the tax bill is the tax rate applied to the assessed value of the home. The claim that PWC has the “lowest tax bill” is simply a claim that houses are worth less in PWC than they are in Loudoun or closer to Washington, D.C. That’s why it’s important for this claim to purposely leave off Stafford and Fauquier, and perhaps even the minor cities as well.
I rate this claim technically true, but only when you look at tax bills, not the tax rate, because houses in PWC are cheaper, but only when you exclude neighboring counties that are further out from D.C. In short, this claim is both meaningless and misleading.
CLAIM 3: First County to Eliminate County Fees for CCW?
From Corey’s website: “Corey led the charge to remove all county fees associated with the concealed carry permit — the first locality in Virginia to do so.”
First, some background: to get a concealed carry permit, you apply to your local Clerk of the Court. There’s a $5 fee that goes to the State Police and a $10 fee to the Clerk of the Court. Above that, each locality can charge from $0 up to $35, with state law capping fees at $50 total.
The Republican Board of Supervisors, including Corey Stewart, voted in February 2016 to reduce the fee to the minimum $15.
On April 13, 2016, VCDL’s Bob Sadtler contacted each Clerk of the Court in Virginia for a post on Ammoland, and found 21 other localities who also charge the $15 minimum.
In order for Corey’s claim to be true, that means all 21 localities would have had to cut their fees in between February 23, 2016 (when PWC voted), and April 13, 2016 (when Sadtler called each Clerk). That seems unlikely. In order to debunk this claim, we just need to find one county that already had a minimum $15 fee, and that county is Campbell County. A 2013 news article about the City of Lynchburg includes this line: “Lynchburg charges the maximum allowed local fee, making its combined fee a total of $50. In surrounding counties, the combined fees range from $15 in Campbell to $50 in Appomattox.”
I applaud Prince William Republican Supervisors, including Corey, for slashing the permit fee to the state minimum. But there’s no need to lie about it. This claim is false.