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Some tax hikes tied to regional jail

By Alex Bridges

With a new regional jail come the tax increases -- except in Shenandoah County's case.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on U.S. 340-522 near Front Royal is expected to open July 1 as scheduled. Participating counties also begin to pay their share of the jail's operating costs and the expenses appear in the proposed budgets for fiscal 2015.

The counties are using figures provided in a study by Davenport & Company that looks at current and future jail costs for each jurisdiction to determine their share of the operational costs for the first year the facility is open.

All three counties are considering tax increases to raise revenue for various spending needs. Warren and Rappahannock counties would use the revenue generated by part of their rate increases to help cover their local share of the jail costs.

Shenandoah County can expect to spend $1.07 million next fiscal year to cover its share of the regional jail costs. Information provided by Shenandoah County shows that a penny of the real estate tax rate generates $444,934 in revenue. As such, $1.07 million equates to 2.4 cents of the total tax rate.

County Administrator Mary T. Price explained Tuesday that the proposed budget, including the jail spending amount, was balanced without increasing taxes, before the School Board presented its funding request.

Shenandoah County supervisors may consider increasing the real estate tax rate from 54 cents to 59.5 cents per $100 of the assessed value in fiscal 2015. As Price explained, the rate increase is needed not to cover the jail costs but to fully fund the School Board's spending request. The 5.5 cent increase equates to $2.44 million -- the amount needed to fully fund the School Board's budget.

Warren County faces paying the larger share of the jail's operational costs because of the number of prisoners it expects to house at the facility.

That county's proposed fiscal 2015 budget includes $2.25 million for regional jail costs, County Administrator Douglas Stanley said. Documents prepared for the three counties showing their likely local share of the jail operating costs at $1.68 million in fiscal 2015 and $3.03 million the following period. Stanley said he expects the costs to come in higher than anticipated given the rise in the county's prison population.

In Warren County's case, Stanley said the $2.25 million allocation in the proposed budget includes revenue from one of the 2 cents in the rate increase. Stanley has recommended that the board raise the real estate tax rate from 59 cents to 61 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Rappahannock County also must raise taxes to help cover its local share. County Administrator John McCarthy said Monday that he plans to recommend to his board members that they raise the real estate tax, and a portion of the money expected from the higher levy would need to go toward covering the local share of the jail's operational costs.

Rappahannock County can expect to spend $370,000-$390,000 in fiscal 2015 to cover its share of the regional jail costs. Each cent on the tax rate, currently at 64 cents per $100 of assessed value in the county, equates to $145,000 in revenue, McCarthy said.

Starting in fiscal 2016, each county must start paying its local share of the annual loan payments to the RSW Regional Jail Authority. The authority is responsible for paying down the debt on the jail project. Whether any of the counties need to raise taxes to cover its share of the jail debt remains uncertain.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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