Stephens City approves budget with tax hike

By Ryan Cornell

STEPHENS CITY — Town Council has approved its fiscal 2015 budget, along with a 3 cent real estate tax rate increase.

The 2014-2015 budget, which takes effect Tuesday, totals $2.1 million, an increase of about $600,000 from the current year’s budget. The budget was approved at a special meeting on Wednesday.

Town Manager Mike Kehoe said a majority of the additional expenses is due to a utility fund that’s 21 percent larger than last year.

“The Frederick County Sanitation Authority has raised its rates to the town, so we have to compensate for that,” he said.

A 3 cent real estate tax increase is included in the budget, and raises rates from 7.6 cents to 10.6 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Councilman Joseph Hollis, chairman of the finance committee, said the $40,000 in anticipated revenue from the raised real estate tax rates will be used to purchase computers and software for the town’s five police vehicles.

“And see, if we didn’t do it [buy computers], we would have to do both jobs twice,” Hollis said. “We would have to fill it out [reports] in paper, and then we would have to come into the office and file by computer because all of our neighboring jurisdictions are all on the computers.”

Kehoe added that stagnant economic development and a small tax base has been another factor behind raising tax rates.

“Our business tax revenues have decreased in recent years,” he said. “It’s obvious when you drive down Main Street.”

Stephens City, which has only had two planning commission meetings this year due to a lack of business, Kehoe said, will be hiring an assistant town manager who will start this fall.

Both the real estate tax hike and budget were approved unanimously by council. Councilman Ron Bowers was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

Prior to the special meeting, Mayor Joy Shull-Gellner, who will be leaving her term early this year, announced that she has purchased a house and a boat at Smith Mountain Lake.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com