Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or email@example.com. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Budget proposal calls for 22 cent tax increase
Caroline County Administrator Percy Ashcraft proposed a county budget that will raise the real estate tax rate by 22 cents and the utility rate by five percent.
Ashcraft, who will be leaving his position next month, presented a $40.3 million general fund spending plan to the Board of Supervisors tonight, which is a 15 percent increase compared to this year’s budget.
In his proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Ashcraft suggests increasing the real estate tax to 75 cents per $100 of asessed value. The current rate of 53 cents per $100 of assessed value has been in place for four years, and is one of the lowests in the region.
In his presentation, Ashcraft said recent reassessments of real property reduced estimated revenues by $2.7 million, or 16 percent. So, he said the tax rate had to be raised in order to restore those funds.
Each penny added to the property tax rate would produce about $269,000 in county revenue, he said.
Ashcraft brokedown what the 22 cents would pay for:
- 10 cents: equalization of the tax rate based on the reassessment
- 6 cents: increase in debt service
- 3 cents: increase in contribution to the school system
- 3 cents: establishment of a debt reserve fund for fiscal year 2013 and beyond. Included in this proposal is $744,387 to begin to build that fund.
Ashcraft said an increase in collection of machinery and tool taxes and public service corporation taxes last year prevented the tax rate from being any higher.
The proposal also calls for a five percent increase in user rates to all utility customers, which would create an additional $235,669 in revenue.
The proposed budget would fund 180 full-time employees and 50 part-time employees. This calls for three new full-time positions worth $121,906, which would cover a business license clerk in the commissioner of revenue’s office, a purchasing manager in the finance department and a law enforcement planner in the sheriff’s office.
There is no plan to increase employee salaries, which were reduced this year.
Schools would get 11.75 million from the county–$750,000 more than they received in this year’s budget and $1.9 million less than the School Board plans to ask for.
Superintendent Greg Killough is expected to present the school budget to supervisors next month.
Proposed in the fiscal year 2012 Caroline budget is about $3 million in debt retirement payments from the general fund, or a total of about 10.9 million from the $159.1 million overall budget.
The county’s Social Services Department, which has seen a huge increase in demand over the past two years, would receive $540,281 under Ashcraft’s plan. That’s about $133,00 more than was budgeted for this year.
Ashcraft said the increased need for assistance is related to the 29 percent increase in the county’s population since 2000 and the county’s 9 percent unemployment rate.
Also, there are about $23.1 million in capital projects, which include two new fire stations, installation of a new public safety radio system and construction of a new YMCA site in Ladysmith.
Ashcraft, who has been the county administrator for 11 years, was recently hired to serve in the same position in Prince George County, just south of Richmond. His last day is March 12.