FRONT ROYAL – After hearing from 41 citizens during a public hearing in a meeting that spanned over four hours, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a 6-cent real estate tax increase.
This marks the sixth consecutive year of an increase in the real estate tax rate, which now stands at 65.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The increase will create about $2.8 million in revenue or $463,000 per penny.
Last year, the real estate tax rate was 66 cents per $100 of assessed value. After home values went up during a recent real estate reassessment, the rate was equalized to 59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
If all proposed tax rates pass in surrounding localities, County Administrator Doug Stanley noted that Warren County would have the fifth lowest rate out of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock and Shenandoah counties.
The county’s total budget is $112,499,706, a $4,673,405 increase from last year.
The board approved the rate and budget by a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Archie Fox and Tom Sayre dissenting.
Before the vote, Supervisor Tony Carter added a motion that all departments cut 1.2 percent of their budgets.
That, he said, will create $330,000 that will be used to keep all nonprofit organizations at level funding and to bump up the contingency fund to offset any money being spent from the fund balance.
Sayre said that with all "the broken trust" in the community after the fallout of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s filing of a $17.6 million embezzlement lawsuit against its former executive director and other defendants, he would like to honor the promise supervisors made last year that there would be no tax increase.
He said it would be ideal if each department head and constitutional officer used the money they have to the best of their ability and “trim excesses.”
When asked by Carter what he would cut from the budget to keep the tax rate level, Sayre did not provide a specific answer.
When County Administrator Doug Stanley was asked how the county could cut its budget without a tax increase, he replied: “We’re at bone with no more meat to cut.” He said the fund balance would have to be used and cuts would have to be made to salary increases and school funding while each department would have to shed 2% of its budget.