Compromise tax rate lacks supervisor support

Though there may be a compromise tax rate in the works, at least three members of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors say they aren’t sure they’ll be able to vote for it.

At a work session Wednesday night (March 23) supervisors discussed setting a fiscal year 2017 (FY17) real property tax rate of 91.4 cents per $100 valuation. Currently the tax rate is 89.9 cents.

“That’s a 1.5-cent increase. It makes a simple round number,” said County Administrator Steve Nichols. “I asked supervisors what tax rate they could possibly live with and how we could back into that.”

Chairman Mike Sheridan said that he wants supervisors to meet “somewhere around 91.4 cents” to see if the Board can approve the tax rate unanimously. “I think it’s time for us to sit down as a group and come to a consensus that’s for the benefit of all of Fluvanna. I think 91.4 cents is something we can work with.”

Sheridan said an increase to 91.4 cents “doesn’t put a great deal of additional burden on the county.” The owners of a home valued at $200,000, for example, would see their taxes rise by $30 per year.

In order to fashion the FY17 budget around a 91.4-cent tax rate, supervisors discussed delaying till October hiring a new sheriff’s deputy, communications officer, and social services worker. While that maneuver would save money in FY17, the full amount of the salaries would be built into the baseline budget for FY18.

The current suggested budget gives the schools $700,000, plus a possible $300,000 in the capital improvements plan (CIP) for technology. The schools have requested $1.6 million in local dollars above last year’s baseline.

It also calls for putting $125,000 toward raises for county employees. Some employees would receive a cost of living adjustment, said Nichols, while others may receive a higher raise – especially those who make significantly less than market value.

In order to make the 91.4-cent rate possible, no money would go into the capital depreciation fund. Supervisors are considering establishing this fund to save for future major repairs and replacements to county buildings.

When asked if he could vote for a 91.4-cent tax rate, Supervisor Tony O’Brien said no. “In my opinion this [suggested] budget is a standing-still budget. Given that we’re going to have some tough years coming up, this is the last year we can fill some positions that are desperately needed in the schools.”

Supervisor Mozell Booker joined O’Brien in supporting a 92-cent rate. “I’ve looked at it and looked at it and at 92 cents we can help the schools,” she said. “We’ve got to stop pushing them back. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Upping the rate to 92 cents from 91.4 cents would cost the owners of a home valued at $200,000 $12 more per year, said O’Brien. “I don’t know what to say to get it across to the Board members that we need to do this for the schools this year,” said Booker.

Supervisor Patricia Eager was similarly unsure about a 91.4-cent rate, but for opposite reasons. “I would like to see the tax rate stay the same at 89.9 cents, but I’m not sure it’s going to be accomplished,” she said. When asked if she could support the 91.4-cent rate, Eager said she hadn’t yet made up her mind.

Supervisor Don Weaver also hadn’t decided how he will vote. “It’s time that we start living within our means, and we haven’t done that for quite a few years,” he said.

Though many expenses are worthwhile, Weaver said it all comes down to how much money the county has to spend. “If you spend beyond your means sometime it’s going to catch up with you,” he said. “You have to take a little pain now so that you don’t end up in really bad shape down the road. We cannot continue this route.”