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By Ben Orcutt - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Councilman Thomas H. Sayre and Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway say now is not the time to raise the real estate or personal property tax rates.
On March 14, the Town Council voted 4-1 to affirm on first reading an increase in the real estate tax from 7 cents to 11 cents per $100 assessed value, with 2 cents of the increase going toward equalization of the town's revenue because the total value of property in Front Royal has decreased from last year by just over 27 percent.
Part of Councilman N. Shae Parker's motion was that all funds realized beyond any equalization would be evenly dispersed between design and/or construction costs associated with the Kendrick Lane and Kerfoot Avenue connector road, and 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.
Sayre cast the only vote against the tax hikes and while Holloway missed the March 14 meeting due to a previous commitment, Holloway said Monday that he will vote against the increases on second reading.
"We have a balanced budget, but there is surplus money available and therefore I think it's unnecessary to have a real estate tax increase or a personal property tax increase," Sayre said. "Now, I'm not against equalization with the real estate taxes. If the equal amount comes to 2 more cent, I'll probably be OK with that, but I'm not for increasing it to [11 cents], no."
Sayre said automobile prices appear to be on the increase, so there is no need to increase the personal property tax.
"I do not think it's going to set well with the citizens of Front Royal to raise their taxes when there's surplus funds available," Sayre said.
Holloway agreed with Sayre on the prices of vehicles, saying that used car prices are up about 20 to 30 percent.
"Well honestly, I'm not for raising taxes right now, especially personal property," Holloway said. "Equalization, I could see equalizing the real estate because when the assessments go back up the tax rate will come back down, supposedly, if I'm not mistaken. As for any increases, I'm just totally against it right now. ... It doesn't sound like a whole lot, but to some people it's a lot."
However, Parker and fellow Councilmen Thomas E. Conkey and Hollis L. Tharpe see things differently.
"The fallacy of it is that just because we've got money in the electric department, for instance, doesn't mean we can spend it on roads," Conkey said. "We have some major infrastructure improvements that need to be made to support the growth that we know is coming in the town, and the only way we're going to make those infrastructure improvements is if we get the tax money to do that. We could wait until we start, and have one massive tax increase, or we have a couple small tax increases or a single small tax increase so we accumulate money over the years and then spend that money."
"Me supporting this [real estate] tax increase is because we have outlined specific uses for the tax increase and in my mind they are needed infrastructure improvements within the town that have been talked about, but never acted on for years and years and years," Parker said. "One being the Leach's Run Parkway, the other being the Kendrick-Kerfoot connector, and if we don't sit aside the funds for those, they're never going to come to a realization. That's my main reason for supporting those two items. The other is my entire time on council, we've been approached by the police department that they are basically in a very crammed and cramped space."
Tharpe spoke in a similar vein on the real estate tax increase.
"If we're going to get anything done, you've got to have money to get her done, and those three projects have been on the back-burner and they need to be brought forth, and we need to start on them now," Tharpe said.