2013 State of the County
Delivered by Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors Corey Stewart on Jan. 8, 2013
I will never forget my first visit to Prince William County. One weekend, as Maria and I were expecting our second child, we were shopping, and naturally, as a Swedish girl, Maria wanted to go to Ikea. Afterward, we stopped at the town of Occoquan for dinner. And while there, the town constable made his way around the restaurant welcoming everyone to Occoquan. It was then that I turned to Maria and said “This would be a great place to raise our family.” I’ve always been proud to call Prince William County our home. This is a great place to live: great schools, a safe community, excellent recreational opportunities and just 25 miles from the nation’s capital.
When I was elected, I made a commitment to work with this board to diversify the tax base, improve transportation infrastructure, and ultimately, to bring more jobs into the county so that people can live and work closer to home.
This Board realized that to be more competitive for economic development opportunities and to attract high-end residential and commercial development, we had to reduce taxes. We realized that we had to move beyond simply reducing the tax rate and begin to focus on the impact to the tax payer.
When I was elected Chairman in 2006, the Board furthered the discussion about taxes and the role of local government. We focused on the core services of government – education, public safety and transportation.
We reduced, and in some cases, eliminated, services that were not core to the county government mission. This is the process of fiscally conservative governments. It’s not just about cutting taxes. It’s about making the difficult choices to cut and invest to accomplish the goals set forth by the elected body serving the community.
In the end, we cut spending dramatically. We cut County spending by more than $143 million. We focused our efforts in local government on key priority areas.
The results of this fiscally conservative, strategic approach to government have been phenomenal:
- Today, we have the lowest average tax bill of any other Northern Virginia Jurisdiction, on average 30% lower. A tax bill that is 8.5% lower than it was in FY2007 in real dollars.
- Prince William County is the 7th wealthiest County in thenation. And because we live in Prince William County, our residents retain a much higher percentage of that income than if we lived in any other Northern Virginia jurisdiction.
- Prince William County is now among the most successful economic development engines in the country.
- We have a low unemployment rate of 4.5%
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Prince William County #1 in Virginia and #3 in the Nation for job growth
- In four of the past five years, CNN Money has ranked Prince William County among the top counties in the nation for job growth – currently at #8 in the nation.
- The County has achieved 33 consecutive months of year-over-year retail sales growth reflecting the strong consumer confidence of the community.
- Over the last 10 years at-place employment in Prince William County has grown by nearly 31%. In the same time period, the average wage for a job in Prince William County has increased by 36%.
- During the same time period, Prince William County has seen 49% growth in the number of establishments located in the County.
- The Washington Business Journal marveled at our growth. This just goes to show how working with the private sector and being uncompromisingly pro-business will bring forth great opportunities and enviable results.
- Prince William now carries AAA status from all three of the major credit ratings agencies – a measure less than half of 1% local governments throughout the country have achieved. This status has helped us to receive the lowest bond rates in our history, which greatly reduces the cost of schools, roads, parks and other capital projects. It has also contributed toward saving the County over $32 million dollars in debt service costs.
This past year we had a number of great accomplishments in Prince William County:
- We cut crime considerably, with the most recent reports showing that reported crime per 1,000 residents is lower than it has ever been in the past 15 years.Additionally, the County continues to have one of the lowest crime rates in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region.
- We invested in roads, parks, and schools.
- The Route 1 widening project took another major step forward with the opening of a new stretch from Joplin Road to Brady’s Hill road (a project that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in the 2006 Road Bond Referendum).
- We saw the opening of new commuter parking lots at Telegraph Road, which provides greater opportunities for commuters working North of Prince William County.
- We opened new fields for the Gainesville Grizzlies; committed to new lights at Veteran’s Park, which will allow for expanded use for scheduling in Eastern Prince William; supported new turf fields and lights at Hellwig Park, Howison Park, and Long Park; and we look forward to seeing new fields opening in the Gainesville District at Oak Valley as was proffered to the community when the development was originally approved by the Board.
- We saw the opening of two new schools – Ronald Reagan Middle School and PACE West School, both in the Gainesville District; and a groundbreaking for a new K-8 school in the Brentsville District.
- We invested in our teachers and public servants. We provided the revenues the Schools needed to increase teacher pay and remain competitive, and we provided County staff a merit increase for the first time in four years.
Yet with all the success we have enjoyed and all the extraordinary accomplishments we have seen here in Prince William County, the task of shaping our community is never finished. We cannot rest on our laurels and pretend as though the job is done.
- We have a burgeoning school population.
- Our residents want more parks, fields, libraries and recreational amenities.
- Commuters and businesses want better roadways, greater access to Dulles and a more robust transportation infrastructure.
We must maintain our AAA Bond ratings. We must maintain our status as one of the “100 Best Places for Young People.” We must maintain our position as one of the fastest growing job markets in the country. We must remain the fiscally conservative, strategic, accessible and dynamic family-oriented community that attracted so many of us who moved here within the past 15 years. All this we must do while continually moving toward becoming the community we wish to be; the community we wish to leave to the next generation; and the community that can serve as a positive example for others to follow across the nation.