Tax proposal


But before supervisors could arrive at this figure they had to debate budget requests late into the night.

To help relieve staffing issues, Sheriff Ryant Washington asked for three additional deputies and three additional dispatchers at a cost of $290,472.  Instead supervisors tossed around the idea of one extra deputy and one extra dispatcher.  “Let’s phase them in,” Supervisor Mike Sheridan suggested.  Chairperson Mozell Booker agreed.

One penny on the tax rate generates almost $270,000 in revenue.  With that in mind, Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch said, “I don’t think for half a penny you can shortchange the sheriff’s department.”

Next, Sheridan suggested fully funding an $11,450 request for emergency management volunteer training.  “We’ve got to keep volunteers in [our fire and rescue services] if we’re going to be volunteer nights and weekends,” he told the other supervisors, who agreed upon $10,000 in funding.

Supervisors then turned their attention to a request from social services for one additional staff member at a cost of $48,890.  Ultimately, however, the Board decided to pass and reexamine the issue next year.  Similarly, though three Pleasant Grove fields need turf care at a cost of $24,000, supervisors decided to fund one field at a time, for a cost this year of $8,000.

When the Board took up the subject of economic development, Supervisor Tony O’Brien championed spending $10,000 to actively market Fluvanna.  Saying that supervisors agreed on marketing Fluvanna as one of their new strategic initiatives, he saw this project as a way to potentially generate new income.  With a majority of supervisors agreeing, the money made its way into the budget.

A month ago Nichols described to the Board two different county pay plans.  Though he believed in Plan B, which brought salaries more in line with locally competitive amounts, its $45,000 additional cost kept it out of his recommended budget.  Most supervisors supported the plan, however, and allocated the extra funds.

After setting aside an extra $70,000 for capital maintenance reserve funding and another $88,000 for middle school capital projects, it was time to debate the ever-controversial topic of school funding.

The School Board has asked the Board of Supervisors for $1.678 million more in local funds than it received last year.  Nichols’s proposed budget, however, falls short of funding the full request with an allocation of an additional $1 million.  So supervisors fell to discussing how much, if any, to provide on top of the $1 million.

Part of the School Board’s request includes funding for five positions at the high school.  “I’d certainly be in favor of the five additional positions,” O’Brien said.  “I think that’s something that we took away from the schools to some degree – the ability for them to provide extra types of programs.”

Concurring, Sheridan stated, “I just know where we’ve been.  We’ve been ‘no, no, no’… They’ve tried to keep things as low as they could.”

“If you don’t have it, you don’t spend it,” replied Supervisor Don Weaver.  “I don’t think we can run that [tax]rate up to six, seven, eight, nine cents more.”  Ullenbruch agreed, noting that the Board rarely gives any department or agency its full budget request.

But Booker, Sheridan, and O’Brien outnumbered Weaver and Ullenbruch, and added $500,000 in additional funds to the school budget, bringing the total local allocation to $1.5 million more than last year, and falling short of fully funding the schools’ request by about $178,000.

After this, Nichols took a moment to determine what tax rate would be needed to fund the evening’s adjustments.  Rather than his proposed 85 cents, the tax rate now stood at 88 cents.

As argument resumed, O’Brien spoke up.  “I know we all choke on that number, but I think it’s important to know that in 2012 when you guys were looking at the 69-cent [tax rate], that would have equalized at almost 90 cents… Last year you guys brought the budget down by a penny and a half.”

“But you can’t go back and say – ” protested Ullenbruch.

“But you can,” O’Brien said.  “It was easy to predict that this was going to happen this year.  It could have been not as big of a jump… You yourself said in 2012 that ‘This [higher tax rate] is going to hurt but it’s the right thing to do’… Then you came in and didn’t do the right thing.  Here’s an opportunity to do the right thing.  It’s not fun… But the county has the opportunity to kind of reset itself.

“There are a lot of citizens that will be upset about the increased tax rate,” he continued, “but there will also be citizens that say, ‘Thank you very much for what you’ve done here.’”

At this point, supervisors determined that an 88-cent rate would make the owner of a house valued at $200,000 pay $170 per year more in taxes, which works out, Nichols noted, to about $14 per month.  When she heard this, Booker said that people could throw their change in “the cookie jar” and have that amount each month.

“Mozell, there are some people who don’t even have a cookie jar,” Weaver replied.

“And they don’t pay taxes,” Booker countered.  “We are looking at this budget for the whole county.  We know that we have 6.9 percent poverty.  We know that we have provided in our non-profits all kinds of things to help people.”

“Yeah, but the tax rate, Mozell,” Ullenbruch said.

“They are not paying taxes,” Booker said again.

“Who isn’t paying?” Ullenbruch asked.

“Most people do [pay],” Booker replied.  “They want to pay.  But [those that don’t] have no property.  They don’t pay personal.  They don’t have a car.  But they’re okay because we are looking after those people.”

At this point O’Brien broke in.  Looking to next year’s reassessment, the proposed positive marketing of Fluvanna, and the upcoming examination into alternate revenue sources, he said, “We can work towards stabilizing this [tax rate].  And when economic development starts to pay its dividends we’re going to be able to see that tax rate really stabilize and in fact go down.”

At their next meeting on Mar. 19, supervisors will set an advertised tax rate, and on Apr. 9 they will hold a public hearing.  Although the tax rate may decrease from what supervisors advertise, it cannot increase without another public hearing and advertisement period.  Supervisors are expected to adopt a finalized tax rate and budget on Apr. 16.

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