Counties push tax hikes for balancing budgets

Property owners in the region face higher taxes if leaders opt to raise rates to balance county budgets.

Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties faced deficits between what they wanted to spend in fiscal 2017 and how much they expected to collect from taxpayers and other sources. Over the course of several weeks, officials and elected leaders in the three counties looked at where they could cut back on new spending requests.

If Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties adopt real estate tax rates as proposed, all localities would charge roughly the same levies. Shenandoah County proposes to increase the real estate tax rate by 7 cents, from 57 cents to 64 cents per $100 of assessed value. Warren County proposes to increase the levy by 3½ cents, from 59.5 cents to 63 cents, and would boast the lowest rate of the three localities. Frederick County proposes to increase its levy by 8 cents, from 56 cents, currently the lowest rate of the three localities, to 64 cents.

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2017 budget, including tax rates and sanitary district fees, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Warren County supervisors plan to hold a hearing on the proposed budget, tax rates and fees at 7 p.m. April 12 in the government center.

Shenandoah County needs to increase its real estate tax rate to 60 cents to close a deficit caused by a decline in property values. The county needs to increase the rate beyond the 60 cents to cover the school division’s funding request.

Shenandoah County proposes a total budget of $110.37 million that includes $63.4 million for schools and $61.68 million for general government. The proposed tax increases are expected to bring the county an additional $1.7 million from real estate and almost $1 million from personal property such as vehicles.

Warren County proposes a total budget of $102.22 million that consists of $49.04 million for general government and $53.17 million for schools. The proposed tax increases are expected to generate additional revenue to help cover the county’s share of the costs for the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, the opening of the new middle school and operational expenses for the school division.

Frederick County supervisors plan to consider a $291.04 million budget and tax rates April 13. County Administrator Brenda Garton presented her proposed budget at a public hearing in March. The budget includes $190.2 million for schools. Garton’s proposed budget includes a 3 percent reserve for raises for county employees. Increased revenue would go to pay for additional personnel, including emergency responders and sheriff’s deputies. The county also anticipates its share of the cost to run the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center increase.

Frederick County proposes an increase in its real estate tax rate by 8 cents, from 56 cents to 64 cents per $100 of assessed value, or approximately 7 percent. The county also has proposed an increase in the hotel lodging tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent, with the additional revenue going to tourism.

Frederick County began work on its budget looking at $28.19 million deficit between $156.13 million in estimated revenue and $184.32 million in spending requests. The School Board sought an increase in local funding of $16.51 million.

Frederick County leaders amended the current budget earlier this year by taking $7 million out of savings to cover $4 million in capital needs for the schools and $3 million for general government.

As Garton noted, the proposed budget provides $7.4 million less to the school system than requested for operating costs and does not include funding for all new positions sought.

Information provided by Garton shows that Frederick County’s median income is at $68,424. By comparison, Shenandoah County’s median income is $49,625 and Warren County’s is $61,160. Harrisonburg’s is $38,048 though Rockingham County’s is $52,195.

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

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