Frederick County board OKs budget, tax rate

WINCHESTER – Many Frederick County property owners can expect to see their next real estate tax bills increase.

The Board of Supervisors voted at its regular meeting Wednesday to adopt the resolution establishing the fiscal 2018 budget that calls for the county to spend $418.6 million on general government and schools.

The budget assumes leaving the real estate tax rate at 60 cents per $100 of assessed value for 2018. However, property values increased as a result of the most recent reassessment and to keep tax bills level the county would have had to reduce the rate. Rather, in order to balance the budget and to generate the revenue needed to cover the proposed spending increases the board proposed to leave the rate unchanged.

A handful of people spoke during the public comment portion against the tax rate and the Frederick County Public Schools budget that includes increased spending.

Supervisor Bill M. Ewing said that the proposed budget is one that best meets the needs of the county. Tax increases are sometimes necessary, Ewing said, adding that the county’s rate remains low compared to its neighbors. Ewing called the budget fair and responsible before making the motion to approve the resolution.

Supervisor Gary Lofton made a motion to amend Ewing’s motion by recommending a real estate tax rate of 56 cents per $100. Lofton pointed out that the county, as Ewing noted earlier, can balance the budget without a tax increase. Lofton said some residents have told him their assessments increased by double digits. The supervisor said property owners deserve some relief from the increased assessments. Lofton added that setting the tax rate at 56 cents would reduce the amount the county puts into the capital improvement fund. The motion failed by a vote of 5-2. Ewing and Supervisors Gene Fisher, Robert Wells, Judith McCain-Slaughter and Chairman Charles S. DeHaven Jr. voted against Lofton’s motion. Lofton and Supervisor Blaine Dunn voted in favor of the amendment to the motion.

Dunn tried and failed to get a second on a motion to set the tax rate at 58 cents.

The board voted 5-2 to set the rate at 60 cents and approve the budget. DeHaven, Ewing, Fisher, McCain-Slaughter and Wells voted to approve the original motion. Dunn and Lofton voted against the motion.

The budget as approved includes $179.6 million in the general operating fund for county government and a school operating fund of $159.87 million. The budget also includes the local contribution of $22.36 million to the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center.

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