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Raise of 7 cents to 11 cents per $100 assesed value is approved
By Ben Orcuttfirstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Town Council voted 4-2 on Monday to increase the real estate and personal property tax rates.
Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway and Councilman Thomas H. Sayre cast the two dissenting votes.
The action increases the real estate tax from 7 cents to 11 cents per $100 assessed value, with 2 cents of the increase making up for a 27 percent loss in the value of property in the town since the last reassessment.
Part of Councilman N. Shae Parker's motion was that 2 cents of the real estate tax increase would be used to fund the Kendrick Lane and Kerfoot Avenue connector road, development of a townwide facilities plan to include a new public safety building, and design and/or acquisition of right of way for Leach Run Parkway.
Parker's motion also included increasing the personal property tax rate from 60 cents to 64 cents per $100 value, with both rate increases effective July 1. Town residents also pay real estate and personal property taxes to Warren County.
Although there wasn't a public hearing on the issue on Monday, a couple of people spoke during citizens' time against the tax increases, while former Vice Mayor Bret W. Hrbek said he thought the proposal was a good idea, especially because of targeting part of the real estate hike for specific projects.
Noting that 70 percent of the real estate in town is rental property, Parker said the real estate tax hike would not affect the majority of town residents. Parker also noted that the personal property taxes had not been equalized in two years.
"I think it's a fair way to [bring] some revenues in without putting a heavy burden on the citizens," Parker said. "I think this is a good investment of the citizens' money."
Councilman Thomas E. Conkey said that the average home in town is assessed at $130,000 and that the increase in the real estate tax is "not a lot of money" for most homeowners.
"I think this is appropriate," Conkey said.
Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. spoke in a similar vein.
"Now is the time to move forward," Lauder said. "We don't need to go backwards."
Holloway said raising taxes during a recession is not a good idea.
"Right now is not the time to be raising taxes," Holloway said.
Sayre agreed, saying there was ample money for road projects from the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as surplus funding in the electric fund to the tune of $11 million.
Sayre said it was also possible grant money would be available for road construction, and additional revenue streams from projects like Dominion's gas-fired power plant on the horizon.
"We're talking big money, and I just don't think this is necessary," Sayre said of the real estate tax increase. "We've got plenty of money ... in our personal property taxes."
Following Monday's vote, some in the audience booed the council.