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Posted March 8, 2012 | comments 36 Comments

Shenandoah County budget proposal includes tax hike

Retirement costs, employee raises factor into spending plan

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County homeowners will be paying an additional 8 cents per $100 of assessed value on their real-estate tax if the Board of Supervisors adopts the fiscal 2013 budget as proposed by County Administrator Doug Walker.

That increase would close the gap between expected revenue and anticipated expenses, Walker said Wednesday evening.

"There are only so many ways that a local government is able to generate revenue," he said. "The single largest source ... is property taxes."

The anticipated general fund budget is about $54 million, a $5.6 million -- or 11 percent -- increase over the current budget.

Walker said his presentation focused only on the general fund budget since state funding levels aren't yet known.

"We don't have any information from the state other than what's been presented in the governor's budget, and it's so in flux," he said.

Walker's budget proposal also would include a 2-percent cost-of-living raise for county workers, who haven't had increases in four years.

Among the factors driving up the budget are an additional $364,507 the county must pay in Virginia Retirement System costs, $691,215 proposed to pay for 13 more fire and rescue employees, and increases in fuel costs and a school transfer.

The increased VRS cost cannot be passed on to employees, Walker said.

"It's required of us by the state," he said.

Increasing the real-estate tax by 8 cents would generate an estimated $3.4 million extra for the county. Currently, county residents are assessed 47 cents per $100 value.

If the tax hike were adopted, the owners of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $80, while those with one assessed at $200,000 would pay $160 more.

The proposed increase is a "starting point" for the supervisors to work with, Walker said.
"There are lots of choices the board has to make on how it generates the revenue," he said. "There's just so few other places to actually generate that kind of revenue."

One big-ticket item not factored into the proposed fiscal 2013 budget is the RSW Regional Jail.

"The regional jail project actually won't be in the operating budget conversation until fiscal 2015," Walker said.

Whether that project will mean another tax increase isn't known.

"It depends on any number of things," Walker said. "If we get a big industrial boom, for example, there's the possibility of new revenue generated by that."

Walker's proposed budget also has some personnel changes, including making Planning and Zoning Director Brandon Davis the head of community development.

The next budget work session is scheduled for noon on Tuesday.

36 Comments | Leave a comment

    If we get a big industrial boom.....There is only so many ways the local government can generate revenue....the single largest source is property tax.... now that is thinking outside the box.....HOW ABOUT CUTTING EXPENSE!!! This is outrageous come on people we have got to get together and show them how we ALL truly feel. If we ran our family budgets and buisnesses like this we would be bankrupt! A year from now we will be facing this jail thing and then if real estate ever does recover, reassesment of our property...this is and has been heading in the wrong direction. WE HAVE GOT TO STOP THIS NOW!!

    I know why don't we build another court house and administration building? Why does a county with such a small population need more courthouses and administration buildings than Fairfax County with over 1 million residents?

    Could it be the good old boy network hard at work?

    Why does the board turn down Martins every time they try to come into the county?

    Why was Popeye's turned down in Strasburg, could it be because the man was not a Holtzman?

    This county has become so corrupt that everyone that ran in my district except for the County Attorney and school board ran unopposed because everyone knows if you aren't in the good old boy network you are wasting your money to run against the current crew of crooks now in office.

    Yes Valley, we need to start doing something and do it at the election box. I turned in a blank ballot last November for the local elections, at least they got the message that X number of people signed in to vote but only X number actually voted for them.

      You said it all, if it's not Bill Hotlzman's it is not coming in. With his daughter in the State gov't and now his son is thinking of running. Lord help us in this county. We already deal with price fixing on fuel and nothing is done about that. To make it easier, I'd like to see a list of what Holtzman DOESN'T OWN. the list would be short for sure.

    Wish more energies would be spent on how to attract business and manufacturing to our county....tourism needs a big boost-we have a beautiful area with amazing hiking that does bring in folks from NoVA and DC but would like to see more done to promote this...already lost the Caverns in Strasburg and many museums.
    Please, Board of Supervisors, look at cutting expenses and please do not continue to burden the real estate taxes-the values of real estate have decreased so much, that I can't imagine the increase will net the county much more revenue as more taxpayers protest the assessment value of their properties.

    Something needs to be done to save our school system, not sure why the only answer is always 'raise taxes'. As mentioned above, there can be a lot of top side cuts made and waste prevention measures taken throughout our county that should be looked at first. If our school system is not taken care of, industry will not come into our county. I believe we're about to lose a lot of needed teachers, teachers that make a third of what the directors are making. Too many chiefs, not enough indians.....another idea needs to be to put holds on all the upgrades and new construction in the county until the economy can support it after taking care of the core costs.

    I come from New Jersey where I bought a home back in the seventy's. My real estate tax was $800 a year. When I moved hear seven year ago my N.J. Real estate tax was $4000 a year. With all the raises of taxes we loss just about all services. Like leaf pick and garbage dumps were closed. So when I tell you I saw this happen before you can believe me. I lost my job to Braille and and truly think jobs moving over seas is the problem for all buget shortages in government budgets. I think the Chiefs need to take a little less until they get a few more Indians to bring in the bacon.

    I meant to say my job went to Brazil. Sorry for the mistake.

    This is a typical move for the goverment. When the credit card is full, they just raise taxes. Sadly, we get the GOVERMENT we vote for.

    "That increase would close the gap between expected revenue and anticipated expenses," Walker said

    Does that mean that i expenses aren't as high we get a refund?

    There is another good old boy system here, and that is the school system. And with all due respect to wiffleur, it cannot be saved either by tax increases or by reducing wasteful spending. The schools are in decline for two reasons. First, families are in decline, and no amount of money will change that. Second, the school employee unions are creating a death spiral for the school system, just as the auto workers' unions did in the auto industry -- and as public pensions for teachers and government employees are doing in California. The General Assembly has to change the VRS laws to reflect economic reality.

      AS a UAW worker I think you should learn before speak. 91% of the benefits we had were giving to us by Henry Ford. The union was only a collective voice to give us a little power in what was more than a third of our life. No one wants to cut off the arm that feeds them. The Union never did anything to drive Ford , GM or Chrysler into the ground. They did it to themselves by buying all the company and investing in precious metals. They did that so they wouldn't have to give it to us as profit sharing. When the bottom fell out of the investments they didn't have the reserves to run all those company. That was not our fault, in fact my Union told ford don't but anything else if they just bought only Toyota They would have been alright. I don't understand the hatred for Unions. The UAW made a deal with Clinton to pay double Federal taxes on every bonus check. So it was the American car Union and workers that was helping to pay off that deficit. I think if we brought the UAW workers back we could do it again.

    I was born and raised in Shenandoah County, other than a four year stint in the military which included a tour of sunny Vietnam, I've lived, worked, married, and with my wife of 30+ years raised children to adulthood in this county, I like it here a lot. But one aspect of life here I do not understand, why do most people vote for the Republican party, just follow the major networks in Washington DC and listen to what the current GOP in Virginia and the nation are doing. The current crop of Republicans are taking away the voting rights of the elderly, students, immigrants, African Americans in the deep south and attacking womens health by denying them hormonal pills and making abortion, which I personally do not care for as a method of birth control, but feel should be available if needed, more difficult to obtain, but yet they claim to be small government advocates. If the Republicans can deny women hormonal pills for health issues, soon they will be writing laws to deny insurance coverage for diabetes, heart and cancer medication because the employer or insurance provider has "a moral or religious objection" to providing this coverage. They have no ideas whatsoever to improve the economy so they use social issues, birth control, abortion, gun control, voter fraud which over the last 30 years has been calculated at .000003% yes that's three one hundred thousandths of a percent, to divide us. I could go on but I'll stop here. YOU put Mcdonnell, Bolling, and Cuccinelli into office, not me, so you live with the poor governing we are currently receiving from Richmond. We do have problems here and nationwide but the GOP isn't interested in solving them only getting reelected or moving into the Vice Presidency - Mcdonnell, the Governor's office - Bolling, or being the great messenger of social issues by suing everyone under the sun using the taxpayer's money - Cuccinelli. And Newt Gingrich wants to be mayor of the moon, what a bunch of nonsense when we have real problems.

    Historically, when the middle class gets squeezed out, countries fall. Just keep squeezing, guys. At all levels of government. You won't have a government soon if this keeps up.

    Skidplate....you say "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND" why most people vote for the Republican party? That is why you're a Democrat.

    Thank you for your military service, sir.

    When you talk about ideas for improving the economy, do you mean the Obama stimulus spending? That put a few people back to work (in mainly unionized professions, such as construction and government) -- but at a cost of about $400,000 per job.

    If that is acceptable to you, I can see why you wouldn't raise an eyebrow at an 8-cent increase in the property tax rate, which is being proposed in response to a mandate from the VRS -- which was created by politicians in Richmond -- which historically has been controlled by -- you guessed it -- Democrats.

    I'm not sure how the teacher unions are ruining Shenandoah County schools when there are no teacher unions in Virginia...

    And don't get me wrong...I hate tax increases as much as the next guy, but I think we need to calm the rhetoric down a little. For someone who owns a $200,000 home, an extra $160/yr (roughly $13/month) is not going to cause economic hardship and someone who owns 1 million dollars in property is not going to have to fret over a tax increase of $800/year. It's not like the Supervisors raise our taxes every year...

    The idea that we should never have to raise taxes is a fundamentally flawed one. Yes, we can (and should) cut where appropriate but as years go on...stuff costs more! You can't just always cut your way out of all your financial problems. We need to do both.

    I wouldn't call it collective bargaining...usually in collective bargaining both sides have some sort or leverage...it doesn't seem like the teachers have any! :-)

    Virginia does not allow collective bargaining. Speaking up for our kids and their profession isn't such a bad thing. If you have been following the action in Richmond that "union" is the ONLY organization advocating for our children. The schools are declining, but part of it is because of the lack of support of the community. The schools have been cut to the bone and it is time that they have the proper resources and staff to do their jobs. There are other options out there other than real estate tax increases. I think the board needs to explore those options as well, but this county is well below the average for real estate taxes and can afford to pony up a little bit to support our own future.

      I appreciate your emotion, dea1119, and of all the others who will chime in. But the fact is, this is not about our children, their classrooms or their future. It is about funding employee pensions (administrators, not just teachers) to the tune of 96% per person -- and I apologize in advance if I am off by a fraction of a percent -- a time when many people can't contribute what they would like to their own retirement funds. Incidentally, I didn't say tax rates should never be changed. What I said was the VRS formula should change, but anyone who dares to suggest that is immediately vilified as someone who is stealing our children's future. That's what's wrong here.

    I appreciate your points someonesinthekitchen. I think that is only the case if you are looking at what is mandated by the state, not by the educators. I think that for the people on the front lines it is about the kids. That is where the breakdown lies in our education system. The law makers don't make decisions based on what our kids need, so then the people in the class rooms look like they support those decisions as well. It all comes back to electing the right people and getting people who know what they are talking about making our education reforms. Unfortunately the state mandates force the school systems to fund things a certain way which then pulls money from the schools. It needs to change, but as someone above said, the only way to change it is to elect the right people and then continue to guide those politicians to the right decision by staying involved in the processes. Unfortunately we can't trust the politicians, who knew. :)

    Go ahead and raise the taxes, pay the retirement and next year hear the teachers whine about needing a 7% pay raise.

    Why not trim the schools budget, do we need sports...NO...I wonder how much we would save trimming that tree! But lord forbid one of the sports parents that think their kid is an all star would be offended ....so what? Pay for the sports program from the students that want to play. The tax payers shouldn't have to foot the bill for sports in school. Let the parents that want their kids to play ...PAY!!! This includes the idiot coaches salaries, lighted football fields maintenance on grounds etc.

    Figure it up folks....do you really need sports in school. It sure as hell is not education!!!

      Maybe we should get rid of schools altogether? That would certainly save taxpayers money. Getting rid of sports is not a viable idea.

      It is so nice of you to call the every coach in Shenandoah County an idiot. I think it is amazing you know every single one of them!!

      BTW, you do realize that sports represents an extremely small percentage of the school's budget? And most athletic departments are actually self sustained by income they generate through ticket sales and fund raisers. But stay classy...and don't let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

    Old Clunker...

    YES, we need sports in schools. Here's a small tidbit for you. 96% of high school dropouts participated in ZERO extra-curricular activities. 96% my friend.

    Now, if we eliminate EC activities (sports), you are creating an even bigger burden on society by adding tens of thousands MORE uneducated dropouts to the dole.

    Sports are a great investment into our youth's future.

    If they eliminate sports, I hope you have a lot of room in your basement to help put up some of these young people that will need a home.

    Dr. Rowland summed it up perfectly tonight at his budget presentation to the SCPS School Board. (1) Strong schools create strong communities. They are worth every citizen's investment for many reasons. (2) Federal and state funding has been drastically cut in recent years and our system is not the same. (3) The burden is being placed upon our community. Additional funding is needed to operate at current levels.

    So, we must make a choice. Find the money or continue to allow for the degradation of our schools. Whether finding the money means cutting expenses elsewhere in the county budget and/or generating new sources of revenue.

    I think we need a reality t.v. show though that truly examines the problems within our education system. The ideas that teacher unions in Virginia are ruining our school system and that coaches are idiots show a major lack of respect for educators and an understanding of the issues. Follow around an effective, high-quality teacher (yes, we are around) for one day and you'll see our desperation and committment to our students.

    We spend $60,000 per inmate and significantly less than $10,000 per student. We rank 9th in wealth in the country, yet closer to the bottom for per-pupil expenditure. We have the lowest tax rate in the entire area and spend more on fund-raisers and the latest technology for our kids than this tax hike would cost us. Surely something can be done! We need to start ADVOCATING!

    ok since I was the first one to post on this issue I will say the following: it seems that every one raises some valid issues, we have to strike a balance but I based my original comments the quotes in the news article there was never a mention of striking a balance, just we have a budget shortfall and we need to make it up by raising property taxes....we need to remember there are some folks that the increase makes a BIG difference to, they may not be as fortunate as others, they may be elderly and living on a fixed income barlet able to make ends meet. The property tax relief program in this county is a joke as compared to other counties in the state. Sure they might have some real estate a farm that has been in the family for years... what are they supposed to do sell off some of the family heritage to satisfy the ever growing budget of the county? To look me IN THE EYE and tell me that there is absolutly no waste or any room to make cuts in the county budget is ABSURD. The education system some times takes a bad rap primarily because it is a large portion of the budget, but EVERYONE NEEDS to make sacrificys so that we can ALL get through these tough times together... I just do not see that happening! Every one wants to protect their own special intrest.. we need to cut expenses just as most of us have had to do in our own situation.

    After asking for the $5.6 million they will settle on a $3 million increase and then tell us they are cutting $2.6 million.

    Some of the justification for the increase is deferred machinery and vehicle upgrades and maintenance. However, last fall they said they had $500,000 more than expected in an undesignated fund balance. Of that $170,00 was used to give furloughed employees a bonus. Yes, they had to take 6 days off without pay but were they required to work those six days when given the bonus or did they just get six extra paid days vacation?

    Now they act like $160 additional per $200,000 of real estate is nothing - but when does it stop? The amount I pay has already increased at reassessment. I haven't received pay raises either but what I'm asked to contribute keeps increasing. I guess I will have to redo my budget to find out how to squeeze out the extra funds so the county can increase their budget.

    School sports are very important to so many because that may be the only way a talented (athletically and academincally talented) student can pay for college. Also, Education is VERY important. I see a lot of mud slinging here, some valid, some not. I have one question to our community: If the budget is so important to you, then why are there so many empty seats at the public hearings? My point is not to comment here and debate, be ACTIVE in your community and offer some valid and respectable solutions. Griping is not a viable way to solve issues.

    You are right Miller, there is no teacher's union in VA. In fact VA is one of the worse states for any employee: you can be praised one day for your work and "let go" the next. They don't even give you the dignity of being able to return to your desk. As I've said before, Virginia isn't for Lovers - it's for Employers. And keeping the masses ignorant provides all the slave labor they need.

    Teachers are the scapegoats for all the ills of society. The only thing wrong in this county and state is the same thing that's going on at the federal level: the fat cats profit while everyone else gets stuck with the bill.


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