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Board opts against real estate tax hike

Supporters of rate increase cited need to raise salaries for government workers

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A split Board of Supervisors chose not to raise the real estate tax rate in Frederick County.

Supervisors voted 4-3 at a work session Wednesday in favor of advertising a levy equal to the current rate of 54.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. By law, supervisors can set the rate at or below the advertised levy once they hold a public hearing on the matter. Supervisors cannot approve a levy over the advertised rate.

Supporters cited a need to raise salaries for government and school workers, replace law enforcement vehicles and pay for capital initiatives delayed over the years. Supervisors Gary Lofton, Chris Collins and Ross Spicer voted in favor of advertising the 5-cent rate increase, with the option to approve a lower levy.

Homeowners would have paid an average $103 extra per year under a 5-cent rate increase. The change would have brought the county an additional $3.75 million in revenue.

Opponents said they didn't want to place an extra financial burden on residents and business owners still struggling through a bad economy.

The board voted to advertise the rate under a scenario offered by staff that assumes a proposed fiscal 2013 budget of $127.18 million. The amount includes $1.3 million in additional revenue and represents an increase over the current spending plan of $125.85 million. The proposal also would use $4.3 million from the county's reserves to balance the budget.

School officials explained employees would see a net decrease in salary because they need to pay a 5 percent increase in the contribution to the Virginia Retirement System.
The Frederick County School Board held its public hearing on Superintendent David T. Sovine's proposed fiscal 2013 budget on Tuesday. Sovine has proposed a total schools budget of $156.8 million for fiscal 2013, which includes an operating fund of $128.1 million.

Sovine's proposed budget did not include a pay raise for staff. To do so required increased revenue from the state or the county.

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