NVDAILY.COM | Local News

Posted April 25, 2012 | comments 12 Comments

Shenandoah board decides on tax increase

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK - Shenandoah County homeowners will pay an additional 4 cents per $100 assessed value on their real-estate tax starting in June.

The Board of Supervisors adopted the rate increase, bringing the tax rate up to 51 cents at its meeting Tuesday night. However, they opted not to adopt the fiscal 2013 budget, and will work on it at an additional work session May 3.

"This has been a very difficult process for us," Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley said prior to the vote.

The supervisors have repeatedly stressed that changes to the Virginia Retirement System, which require current government workers to pay 5 percent of their salaries toward their retirement benefits, with the localities reimbursing them 5 percent, are the reason why a tax increase is needed. Starting in 2014, new government hires will have to pay the 5 percent themselves.

Helsley said those changes are costing the county an additional $3.1 million. The additional 4 cents on $100 of assessed value for real estate will generate about $1.7 million, he said.

In the initial $54 million budget -- 11 percent higher than this year's -- County Administrator Doug Walker proposed to the board, there was an 8-cent real-estate tax increase.

At that time, additional VRS costs were expected to cost the county $364,507. Plus, the county was looking at hiring 13 additional fire and rescue workers at a cost of $691,215.

The county's debt service in fiscal 2013 will be $5.5 million, about $125,000 more than the current year expenses.

The county has since dropped the number of new firefighters to eight, and has looked at other ways to cut spending.

Currently, supervisors are looking at a budget gap of around $640,000, which could possibly be closed through taking funds out of the budget reserves, the capital improvement plan budget or the proposed schools' budget, among other items.

They're discussing financing the schools $1.8 million more than in the current fiscal year, down from the School Board's request of $2.4 million. Since the request was made, the schools have gotten an additional nearly $300,000 in state revenue.

District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson said during a budget work session Tuesday he wished the supervisors could fully fund the schools' request.

"Don't think we're cutting budgets because it's frivolous overspending," he said. "It's not. We're sacrificing just like everybody else to get down to a reasonable amount of revenue that we need to generate."

Helsley cautioned during the work session about tapping the fund balance too much.

"We've got to watch going to that well," he said.

Cuts have had to be made to make up the difference caused by VRS costs, Helsley said during the board meeting.

"That has been a very, very difficult thing, plus we have our other expenditures that we've had to look at," he said. "The School [Board] has eliminated their CIP, their projects, and the county basically has done just about the same thing."

District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker, the only one to vote against the tax increase, said he'd gotten calls from older residents on fixed incomes.

"I would've liked to have seen it no more than 3 cents," he said.

The Board of Supervisors sometimes gets accused of not listening to residents. District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris disagrees.

"I think our board is very in touch with our constituency," he said.

At last week's public hearing on the budget, two themes stood out, Morris said. These were the need to take care of the school system and "people are looking at us to be conservative and frugal with our spending."

The initial budget proposed by Walker called for an 8-cent tax hike, and cutting it to 4 cents was a sign of frugality, according to Morris.

"I think we're feeling the pain of our constituency out there who are having problems making ends meet," he said. "At the same time, we had those who support various other things, like public safety."

12 Comments | Leave a comment

    So who was in favor and who was opposed? Hopefully ShenCo voters will remember in November unless BoS members jingle some keys or shake a piece of string to draw their attention away....

    It is your choice where u are going to live-if you dont like shen. county then move eleswhere but dont come to warren county/thank you! p. s. be happy that somepeople stand up to the plate and do whats needed to keep shen.county running.

    just out of curiosity. Why can't the goverrnment employees pay the 5% for the VRS out of their pocket? It is their retirment.

    Maybe if they made an honest effort to trim the fat I wouldn't feel so angry about paying additional taxes.
    It hurts those with limited incomes or on unemployment and have to pay for their benefits and all the extras while we have nothing.

    Idiots. Can anyone who has been elected realize that many residents in this county is on a beer budget and the the BoS should not have champagne taste. Cut just like most residents
    have and quit rationalizing excuses to raise taxes! Taxes, in theory, should mirror the economy and should not be at alltime highs after a severe downturn.

    The folks in Shenandoah county should be thankful for a 51 cents tax rate. In Warren the rate is 59 cents, Frederick 54.5 cents, Rockingham 60 cents, and Page is 64 cents. You folks have the lowest tax rate in the region. Not much to complain about in my opinion.

    Considering how costs have skyrocketed for municipalities all across the Commonwealth in the past few years, I would say the Shenandoah Board of Supervisors have done well keeping the impact to a minimum for their constituents.

      Shenandoah County may have the lowest real estate taxes in the region, but we have the highest utility rates in the region. And don't forget those of us that live with in town limits, we then have to pay both County taxes and then get hit again with town taxes.

        Kristin,

        Utility rates have nothing to do with real estate taxes. Two separate issues, and two separate entities. Shenandoah County does not own Shenandoah Electrical Cooperative.

        That's like arguing with the grocery store manager, because your mechanic raised his prices to change the oil in your car.

        I agree with Spunky, when you live in a town, you should expect to pay more, for the benefit of the town services you receive. You can choose to live where there is all paved roads, sidewalks, and the other amenities that come from living in town, or you can stay in the county with gravel roads, well water, disposing of your own trash, digging yourself out of each snow storm during the winter, and keeping the growth cut back on the road during the summer.

    From the party that constantly talks about lower taxes and smaller government...??

    Come on people, are u forgeting that town taxes go to sidewalks-lighting and all sorts of things that town govenment provides you that the county dosen't and also remember two things (One) you can move to the county and have a well and septic, walk in the mud in the dark. (Two) Make sure you are not paying twice for the same service that town and county people enjoy.

    We are not talking about the electric bill Jt we are talking water and sewer. And you have to pay recycling and trash to have water even if you dont use those services. If we could afford to pick up and move we would. We do have to dig out of each snow! We also have to mow along the road.We pay for services because we have to, not because we get those services. If the town sidewalk which happens to be in front of your house is not cleared of snow and ice you get fined. I could go on and on but it is a waste of time.

    At least you guys don't have to pay go to the landfill. I'm originally from Strasburg and I now live in Oregon. Every time I go to the county dump it costs me $25.


Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137