Public hearing tonight on proposed tax hike

FRONT ROYAL – Citizens can voice their opinions on a proposed 1-cent real estate tax increase during a Town Council public hearing a 7 p.m. today.

The proposed tax rate was advertised for two weeks, and council can approve an increase up to or below 1 cent. A higher rate must be re-advertised and discussed at another public hearing.

The real estate tax is now is 13.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson previously said if the New Market Tax Credit refinance rate remains level, and without a 1-cent increase, the town would be $80,000 in the hole.

He said that a 1-cent increase would generate about $110,000.

The $10.21 million new police department is one reason for the potential increase.

Councilman Jacob Meza said during a budget work session that he knew funding the police building would require an increase, and he is “still in support of that.”

Councilman William Sealock agreed and said the council already knew that a tax hike would be necessary this year.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt was the only board member to vote against constructing the police station because of the tax increase. Now that a tax hike is necessary, he said he would rather see rates increase slowly over a few years.

“Get the money gradually. It doesn’t hurt the taxpayers as bad if you let them have a penny or half-a-penny than to add 3 or 4 cents,” he said.

Wilson agreed and suggested that the council increase the tax rate a half-cent for a few years.

Tewalt said the councilmen who voted in favor of the police department need to “show that you’re willing to do it.”

Councilmen John Connolly and Gary Gillispie said they were not in favor of the increase.

Connolly said his opposition is due to having $1.5 million in the general “above the three-month reserve.” Gillispie said he would rather find revenue outside of taxes.