Shenandoah County to propose tax hikes

Richard Walker

Richard Walker

 

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County will propose tax increases and a budget likely to set up a showdown among supervisors next month.

The Board of Supervisors agreed at a work session Thursday to advertise for public hearing a proposed fiscal 2017 budget. The county also will advertise an increase in the real estate tax rate from 57 cents to 64 cents per $100 of assessed value and the personal property tax from $3.50 to $3.60 per $100 of assessed value. Rate increases as advertised would bring $62.91 million in revenue to the county.

The board voted 4-2 on the advertised rates though supervisors can adopt levies below that amount. Supervisors Cindy Bailey and Marsha Shruntz voted against advertising the increase and Vice Chairman Richard Walker indicated he wouldn’t support the idea.

The county will hold the public hearing April 7.

Supervisor Steve Baker said he received calls from residents asking that the board fully fund all budget requests. Baker made a motion to advertise an increase in the real estate tax rate from 57 cents to 64 cents per $100 of assessed value and to raise the personal property tax rate from $3.50 to $3.60 per $100 of assessed value. Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese seconded the motion.

However, before Chairman Conrad Helsley could call for a vote, Walker asked that the board discuss potential cuts to the proposed budget. Walker noted that the county already faces a $650,000 deficit in the current budget as a result of lower property assessments. Walker also reminded the board that the county would still need to raise the real estate tax rate to pay for recurring expenses covered in the current budget by savings.

Proposed cuts to the proposed budget reduced the entirety of the deficit facing the county government. Walker said it would reflect no growth in the government. The proposal would include additional funding for the school system.

Bailey asked why the proposal would give increased funding to the school system and none to the county government. Walker noted that the school division receives step increases without pay raises, and that results in about $400 per teacher and more than $700 for administrators built into the fixed costs. The school division expects to see its mandated payment into the Virginia Retirement System increase as well as the cost to provide health insurance for employees, Walker added.

“We are holding county employees to no raise,” Walker said, adding that this presents an unfair situation.

Noting that some members would not support a tax increase, Helsley asked those supervisors to present their suggested cuts to bring the budget down to a level balanced by keeping the tax rate at 57 cents.

“I don’t have the support,” Bailey said.

Walker criticized school supporters who claim the county’s division remains under funded. Walker said his calculations show that the county actually contributes more to the school system than other surrounding localities.

Helsley said it would be only fair to the residents to show how the county would balance a budget at 57 cents and where it would cut.

Officials provided revenue estimates at different tax rates. Leaving the rate at 57 cents per $100 of the assessed value would leave the county with a deficit of $1.29 million, $860,000 at 58 cents, $430,000 at 59 cents and no loss at 60 cents. The county would collect $430,000 at a rate of 61 cents, $860,000 at 62 cents, $1.29 million at 63 cents and $1.72 million at 64 cents.

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

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