Some Warren County and Front Royal citizens have been expressing their anger at town and county public meetings as well as on social media. The scandal swirling around the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and an increase in taxes for the next fiscal year have created a tidal wave of outrage.
Taxes are going up – on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved a 6-cent tax increase – the sixth increase in six years, and last month the Town Council voted for a 1 1/2-cent increase in real estate taxes to help pay for the town’s new $10 million police headquarters, which opened this month.
The new building was supposed to have been paid for through the New Markets Tax Credit loan program that the EDA was going to administer, but after the scandal broke earlier this year, town leaders discovered that the loan, which would have saved taxpayers money, was never closed – and it would never have been closed because the project never qualified for the loan.
The county also had to change course this year after learning three projects – renovations to the Health and Human Services complex and to Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, and construction of the new Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department – did not qualify for that tax credit program administered by the EDA.
Eventually the EDA situation, which includes a criminal investigation and a $17.6-million lawsuit alleging misappropriation of funds and embezzlement, will end. While it won’t be a Superfund site-sized expense, local citizens are rightfully upset to see their public funds being spent on cleaning up this toxic mess.