Front Royal council holds taxes steady

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council voted Monday to hold the tax rate steady even as Front Royal plans to build a new police headquarters.

Council voted 5-1 to approve on its first reading a motion to adopt a real estate tax rate at the current levy of 13 cents per $100 of assessed value. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Councilmen John Connolly, Jacob Meza and Eugene Tewalt and Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger voted in favor of the motion. Councilmen Bret Hrbek voted against the motion.

Connolly said he felt the police headquarters project is important and noted that staff has indicated the town does not need additional funds or to change the tax rate to move forward. Connolly said the fiscal 2017 budget should be trimmed before the town considers increasing the tax rate.

But the town should increase the tax rate a little bit now rather than wait and need even more money in the future for the project, Hrbek said.

A super majority of council was required to approve any motion to set the tax rate. Council must still vote on a second reading of the motion.

Council first voted 4-2 against a motion to adopt on a first reading to increase the real estate tax rate from 13 cents to 14 cents per $100 of the assessed value. Tewalt and Hrbek supported the motion. The additional revenue generated by the 1-cent increase will be used for the construction of a new police headquarters on Monroe Avenue near Kendrick Lane, on the former Avtex Fibers site.

Council needs to think about how the town can pay for the $8 million project, Egger said. Future leaders must find ways to pay for the project if council doesn’t increase the tax rate now, Egger added. She reiterated her opposition to the project itself.

Hrbek said the town’s rate increase would equate roughly to $25 more per year for some homeowners. Warren County could have increased its real estate tax rate a little bit each year rather than proposing a 3-cent hike this year, Hrbek said.

Meza said he would like to see the town move forward on the project without increasing the tax rates. Meza added that council should make good, fiscal decisions now rather than increase the tax rate and find out later

The motion as approved calls for the town to rescind the increase once it pays off the debt incurred for the project. The personal property tax rate of 64 cents per $100 of assessed value remains unchanged.

No one spoke during the public hearing held on the proposed increase. Business owner Mike McCool spoke earlier in the meeting during the public comment period about the proposed fiscal 2017 budget. McCool criticized the budget for containing too much spending on personnel, including pay raises when employees in the private sector are not seeing their salaries increase. McCool said the town could pay off the police headquarters in two years if council trimmed the budget.

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

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