Board backs tax hike for hearing

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders could raise taxes by as much as 10 percent to balance next year’s budget.

The Board of Supervisors held a work session on the proposed fiscal 2019 budget on Tuesday during which members considered what tax rates the county should at least advertise for a public hearing. Supervisors can adopt rates at or below – not above – those levies advertised.

Half the six-member board, when polled by Chairman Conrad Helsley, agreed that the county should advertise a real estate tax rate of 66 cents per $100 of the assessed value with the idea that supervisors could pick a levy below that. The proposed rate represents a 10 percent increase over the current levy of 60 cents per $100 of the assessed value.

The county also appears poised to advertise an increase in the personal property tax rate – from $3.75 to $3.90 per $100 of the assessed value.

A real estate tax rate of 64 cents and a personal property tax levy of $3.90, plus $1 million from the county’s savings or fund balance, would balance the proposed fiscal 2019 budget.

A house assessed at $200,000 generates a tax bill of $1,200 at the 60-cent real estate tax rate. The bill for the same property would increase to $1,280 at 64 cents or to $1,320 at 66 cents.

District 4 Supervisor Karl Roulston suggested that the county advertise a rate of 66 cents, noting the likelihood the board could adopt a levy below that amount. District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese said he supported advertising the 64-cent rate. District 3 Supervisor Richard Walker told Helsley he would support advertising a rate of 60 cents – leaving the levy unchanged.

District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris suggested the board consider going into debt by issuing a bond that would cover most of the projects in Shenandoah County Public Schools’ Capital Improvement Program. A bond would allow the county to spread out the burden on taxpayers.

Morris did not suggest what type of bond the board should issue though no board member asked him to elaborate. The board would need to place the question of whether or not the county should borrow the money on an election ballot as a referendum should they decide to seek the funds through a general obligation bond. The county does not need to seek voter approval if the board seeks to borrow the money by issuing a moral obligation bond, such as previous boards did to build the new General District courthouse and the Health and Human Services building.