While many localities in America are facing budget shortfalls and mounting debt, one county in Virginia has escaped massive deficits and instead measurably reduced the overall size of government.
Prince William County (PWC) is the second largest county in Virginia and now the number-one job growth locality in the region – with one of the lowest tax burdens – a distinction the chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart, contends is directly attributable to the disciplined implementation of conservative principles and a harsh crackdown on illegal immigration.
In 2007 the county adopted a very strict illegal immigration policy, which, according to a study by the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum has likely resulted in a 46.7% drop in aggravated assaults and a 32% drop in violent crime.
Stewart told The Daily Caller that one of the best cost cutters was the reduction in the number of illegal immigrants in the county.
“It gave us the ability to cut costs because the cost driver for the county is the school and we had such an influx of limited-English speaking students between 2002-2007 and those limited-English students are extra costly to the school system. That was the prime cost driver, the influx of those students,” Stewart said, citing the importance of being able to reduce the number of expensive English as a Second Language classes, which had increased over 250% in the previous five years.
Every area of PWC has made reductions and, as of today, the county has cut more than $140 million from the cost of government, and is employing the lowest number of full-time government workers in the D.C. region. Indeed, residents of the county pay tax bills nearly 30% lower than in neighboring counties.
The business community has responded, PWC is now the number one job growth county in Virginia and the D.C. region and number two in terms of job growth on the East Coast.
“It proves that when government gets off the backs of businesses and reduces the size of government, business will respond and create those jobs. It is not the job of government to create jobs. It is the job of government to get off out of the way,” Stewart said.
According to Stewart, people have appreciated the reduced size of government, especially the reduction in its cost.
“The tax bill today for Prince William County is below where it was in 2007. We have reduced the size of government and tax bills. And adjusted for inflation, it has been a 14% drop in the tax bill.”
In accordance with its small government allegiance, the PWC Board of Supervisors refused to use its portion of the $249.5 million allocated to Virginia by the Federal Education Jobs Fund Stimulus bill to hire more teachers – as the one-time payment would have resulted in expensive ongoing costs.
“The problem was of course, that this whole thing is sham, because it provides enough compensation for one year,” Stewart said. “After the year is up the locality on the hook for their continuing compensation and at that point the locality would be faced with one of two options. Either raise taxes or lay off teachers and we were unwilling to do that. So we rejected the funds and to my knowledge we are the only locality to do so.”
Stewart wants other counties to take a serious look at the small government model his board has applied to PWC.
“We all know that cutting taxes is popular, but cutting spending most people have perceived as being a political liability, but in our experience it has been a plus,” Stewart said. “Even those who have been effected by those cuts have appreciated the fact that their county has bitten the bullet and reduced the size of government.”