By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Thursday settled on a proposed real-estate tax increase of 6 cents, but took great pains to say that number will change.
Budget manager Garland Miller said after the meeting the proposed tax increase must be advertised April 3 and 10 ahead of a public hearing scheduled for April 17. To meet advertising deadlines, the panel had to set a figure at its work session on Thursday.
Miller said the supervisors can then decide to adopt a lower tax rate, but if they wish to set one above the 6 cents, that rate would have to again be advertised and the subject of a public hearing.
A 6-cent increase would bring the real-estate tax rate to 53 cents per $100 of assessed value.
A proposed $54 million fiscal 2013 budget -- $5.6 million higher than this year's -- prepared by County Administrator Doug Walker included an 8-cent increase.
Supervisors alluded to public pressure they're getting because of the proposed increases.
District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker and District 1 Supervisor Dick Neese had voted during the session to keep the 8 cents as "a placeholder" for the budget. Supervisors had discussed the state of flux the budget figures are in, especially given the uncertainty of state funding.
"This board is caught between a rock and a hard spot," Baker said.
He said the panel could always adopt a tax rate lower than the one being advertised.
"I think everybody realizes it's not going to stay there because we're going to cut it," Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley said.
District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli replied, "No, everybody doesn't realize it, and that's the situation we're in."
She argued to lower the advertised rate to 6 cents.
"I have no problem letting the county budget be the placeholder," said Ferguson, who later voted against the 8-cent figure.
He said he wasn't ready to approve increasing the tax rate by a penny, and needed to look at the budget and make cuts where necessary.
"I'm not ready to say what that's going to be yet," Ferguson said. "I have no problem with advertising what it is, that this is stipulated in the budget, as long as the public knows it's just a placeholder."
"Don't count on it," District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris retorted.
Helsley added, "We know that it's just a placeholder. Whether that's how it will be presented, I can't answer."
Before placing his vote on the 8-cent increase, Ferguson queried his colleagues.
"What's your concern, saying you're afraid of a placeholder?" he asked. "Are you afraid it's not going to be presented well with the communication with the public, so therefore, you're saying no, or you're saying you really think the board is going to go in at 8 cents?"
Baroncelli said an 8-cent increase wouldn't "be reality" for her.
"My reality would be to start at the 6, and see what happens, what pans out, what cuts we make," she said.
The Board of Supervisors' next budget work session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.