Proposed budget calls for higher real estate, personal property tax

By Heather Michon

County Administrator Eric Dahl introduced his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night (Feb. 1) — a package totaling $99,799,941.

In an hour-long presentation, Dahl and Finance Director Tori Melton walked the supervisors through their projections for revenue and expenditures in the coming fiscal year. 

As in past years, the rising costs of goods and services, the need to maintain competitive compensation for county employees, and the challenges of maintaining over 30 buildings and a fleet of more than 300 vehicles all exert pressure on the budget.    

Public safety is likely to be the big-ticket item for FY24, including $1.6 million to establish and staff a new Department of Emergency Services and approximately $325,000 for E911 and sheriff’s office staff and upgrades. 

Another new expense will be an in-house County Attorney’s Office, which is expected to cost around $122,000 in its first year.   

There are also some unknowns – particularly how much the School Board will be requesting from the county when the Board presents its budget on Feb. 15. “I don’t want to guess,” said Dahl, “but I would imagine that’s probably above being flat.”

In all, Dahl projects the county will see expenditures increase by $677,157 over the amended FY23 budget. 

Proposed tax rates

To help fund the budget, Dahl is proposing increases to both the county’s real estate and personal property tax rates. Melton told supervisors that each one-cent increase in the real estate tax yields $371,792 in revenue to the county and each five-cent increase in the personal property tax yields $175,706.

Rising home values and falling vehicle values each have an impact on the proposed rate schedules.

In FY23, supervisors initially set the real estate tax rate at $0.87 per $100 of assessed value. Those values were reassessed in late 2022 and resulted in much higher valuations. To counter this, the real estate tax is equalized to about $0.77, allowing the county to receive the same amount of revenue as originally projected without significantly impacting homeowners’ tax bills. 

For FY24, Dahl recommended a rate of $0.81. Combined with the new valuations, the average homeowner in Fluvanna would see a rise in their annual real estate bill of around 4.52 percent. 

Dahl recommended increasing the current personal property tax rate from $3.70 per $100 of assessed value to $4.15. Supervisors set the FY23 rate at a time when the value of used vehicles was skyrocketing due to a nationwide shortage of new vehicles. In recent months, these used-car values have started to fall back to normal levels, supporting the argument for an increased tax rate. 

Under the proposed budget, the business and public utility rates and the machinery and tools rates would be unchanged.

Supervisors will spend the next 10 weeks or more discussing the finer details of virtually every aspect of the budget. An advertised tax rate must be decided on March 15, with a special public hearing on those rates set for April 12. The final vote on the budget and the tax rates is currently scheduled for April 19 but could be extended until April 26 if they feel they need extra time for deliberations.

Short meeting

Before Dahl’s presentation, supervisors held their regular meeting with just a couple items on the agenda. Supervisors Mike Sheridan (Columbia) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) were not present for the evening.

The three remaining members voted to approve a resolution for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s (TJPDC) Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan and to appoint Fluvanna’s JAUNT representative Harold Morgan as the county’s proxy representative for JAUNT shareholders meeting. They also voted to accept $60,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a tourism recovery program. Economic Development Director Jennifer Schmack said the funds would be used to advertise Fluvanna as a regional tourist destination.

Finally, the supervisors approved a resolution recognizing Caleb Kimble for achieving Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. 

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