On the Ballot: Deadly Ambush of Fairfax Officer Has Prompted Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Nov 1, 2016

When they head to the polls on Election Day, most voters will be focused on the presidential election. But here in Virginia, they'll also be considering a little-known constitutional amendment — one that had a violent beginning.

Back in 2006, a mentally-ill teenager from Centreville showed up in the parking lot of the Sully District Station in Fairfax County with an AK-47 and opened fire. The widow of one of the officers who died that day later approached Delegate Tim Hugo about creating a property-tax exemption for the families of fallen officers. Hugo says she made a compelling case, although he warned it would take a constitutional amendment to do it.

“There are very few public servants that we ask to run into a burning building, go into your house when you’re having a medical emergency or strap on body armor and a sidearm and run into a dangerous building."

And when they don’t come back from that burning building, what happens to their spouses? Dana Schrad at the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police says many families find themselves at a financial crossroads.

“Some of our surviving spouses have actually had to give up their homes because they haven’t had the income to continue to provide that home for their families. So this is one way to lift that burden somewhat."

One important note about what the amendment does, though. It does not actually create the property tax exemption. It allows local governments to create them, if they can still balance the books.