MIDDLETOWN — Town administrators on Monday released a 2020 fiscal year budget that includes an increase in real estate taxes.
Officials revealed a proposed budget of $2,341,314 in expenses and anticipated revenue coming in at $2,339,544.
The tax increase is needed to help pay for an upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant that is failing as well as other infrastructure needs. Town administrators proposed increasing the town’s real estate tax by 3 1/2 cents, raising it from 6 1/2 to 10 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value. That would increase taxes on a $100,000 home by $35 a year – from $65 to $100 per year.
Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh, who has campaigned for years on the fact that the town has not increased taxes in years, said Monday evening he would be the last person who wanted to increase taxes but it appears to be necessary.
“In this day and age, it is pretty remarkable that the town of Middletown has been able to not raise real estate taxes in 27 years but the condition of our sewer plant means that council has to consider it,” he said.
Council members in April approved an upgrade to the plant that is estimated to cost $4.8 million. This option would remove the plant’s bio-wheels and replace them with a modern system as well as construct a new larger basin for increased capacity. The upgrade provides the highest potential for increased treatment performance and future capacity increase if needed.
On Monday, council learned from Town Public Works Superintendent Les Morefield that one side of a bio-wheel had fallen to the bottom of the plant’s aeration tank. A conversation with Keith Lane, an engineer with Peed & Bortz, determined it would cost $50,000 to fix. Morefield and other employees at the plant have come up with a temporary fix that would cost about $4,000 in parts. They notified by letter the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that they will use existing blowers, bubble diffusers and pipes to modify the treatment process.
If approved, the tax increase would be the first increase since 1992. The proposed increase would bring the tax rate back to what it was in 1992. It was then that the real estate tax was dropped from 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to 6 1/2 cents per $100 because of how successful some businesses, including the Wayside Inn, were doing at the time.
Several town officials pointed out that even with the increase, the community has the lowest rate in the area.
Council members George Smith and Carolyn Aliff did not agree with the increase.
Smith said he could support a 2-cent increase now with a 1 1/2-cent-increase next year.
There are also proposed increases to sewer service charges.
The proposed budget shows anticipated general fund revenue of $754,307, anticipated sewer fund revenue of $991,160, and anticipated water fund revenue of $594,076,
Town administrators anticipate miscellaneous expenses of $18,200, administrative expenses of $265,600, zoning department expenses of $65,000, police department expenses of $415,914, a fire department grant expense of $10,000, maintanence department expenses of $297,000, sewer department expense of $617,000, and water expense of $652,600.
Town administration is still working on setting additional dates regarding the budget, including the public hearing. An advertisement will appear in the Northern Virginia Daily with confirmed dates.
The council tentatively could have its first and second readings of the proposed budget on June 17.
A public hearing on the budget could be held on June 17. The budget is tentatively scheduled for its last reading, and possible approval, on June 25.