Loudoun County to put referendum on local road building on November ballot
I got a note on this from my local Board Supervisor but this morning’s WaPo is the first I’ve seen on it in print, so I’ll refer you here for the story. The brief is that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has voted to place a referendum on the November ballot asking the county’s voters to decide on whether the county should spend local funds for building roads here in the county.
Loudoun County voters will have a chance this fall to decide whether the county should start spending local tax dollars to design and build roads.
Supervisors voted Tuesday to hold a referendum Nov. 7 asking voters for permission to borrow $51.3 million for several projects across the county — a significant new direction that reflects supervisors’ growing frustration with what they view as the state’s inadequate commitment to roads. The bond package would be paid off using county revenue.
“Counting on state funds is my first preference,” said Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run), the proposal’s lead advocate on the board. “But there are improvements that are never going to get done unless we do things a little differently.”
The suggestion is to permit the County to issue bonds – the same mechanism they use to build schools – to raise funds for building roads. The money they’re talking about this time would go toward building an interchange between 2 fairly heavily-used roads near here (it needs it, to be sure) and toward the design of 6 other projects around the area.
Let me say, right off, that I approve of putting this kind of action in front of the voters. There will be no room to maneuver for those who would claim that the Board is enacting a bad policy by either approving or denying this move. The voters are going to be doing this one, so that’s where the responsibility will lie. The trick is going to be in educating the voters as to the real issue before them before election day. I say “the real issue” because this vote is not about whether an interchange or road expansion should be built, it’s about whether we start taking out loans locally to build them.
Since I’m writing about it, I’ll be happy to take a stab at an initial stance on the matter. As of this moment, I intend to vote the measure down. I am glad to hear that Supervisor Waters’ first preference is for state funds. That’s where the funding for road projects is supposed to come from and it’s part of what I pay state taxes for. I disagree with her, however, that such improvements will never get done without funding them ourselves. Moreover, I think it sets a dangerous precedent for a couple of reasons.
As I have already alluded, I don’t like the idea of paying state taxes for road improvements and then having to pony up local taxes to pay off loans taken out to pay for road improvements. If the issue is that we’re only getting 30 cents back on every dollar we send to Richmond, then that’s the problem that needs fixing, not adding more taxes. While we’re on the subject, I would need to see what mechanisms are being proposed that would keep someone from diverting the funds collected for these improvements to some other project. That’s the issue that convinced me to vote against the northern Virginia tax assessment for road improvements up here that came up a few years ago. (There was no such mechanism in place nor was there one being proposed.)
Going past that issue, what guarantee is there that Richmond won’t look at the funds raised in this manner and simply decide to cut what state funds we still get by that amount? (As in: “Well, Loudoun’s handling the building of that interchange, so they don’t need the $30 million in state funds. Let’s just send that down south!”) This referendum is being proposed because we’re already not getting our fair share of road funding as it stands. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to aggravate the problem.
Lastly, I’m afraid of what else we’ll get tired of waiting for the state to fund with the taxes they collect. This is the precedent I was afraid of. It’s a small concern, so long as they continue to put such things before the voters. But I don’t want to keep paying for things twice and I’m concerned that when I do it once, someone down the road, here, will start thinking I should do it again.
This debate is very, very new and we need to gather all the info, ask all the questions, and discuss it, publicly. I look foward to that debate. Care to put your 2 cents in? Leave a comment here and let’s get this party started.
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