Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Caroline budget includes tax increases
BY PORTSIA SMITH
Interim Caroline County County Administrator Alan Partin proposed a county budget Tuesday night that will raise the tax rates for both real estate and personal property.
Partin presented a $40 million general fund spending plan to the Board of Supervisors, which is $2.1 million, or 5.5 percent, more than this year’s budget.
In his proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Partin suggests increasing the real-estate tax by four cents to 72 cents per $100 of assessed value. The current rate is one of the lowest in the Fredericksburg area.
He said a homeowner in Caroline with a home valued at an average of $160,251 would see an increase of about $64.01 per year on their real-estate tax bill.
Partin also proposed a nearly 38-cent increase to the personal property tax rate from the current $3.125 to $3.50 per $100 of assessed value at 100 percent.
A Caroline citizen with a car valued at $7,954 would see a $29.83 increase on their personal property bill per year, and a truck owner whose vehicle is valued at $8,754 would see an increase of $32.83 per year.
In his presentation, Partin said, “Projected revenues at the current tax rate are not sufficient to pay for rising debt service and other costs, despite attempts to reduce expenditures.”
If the tax rates were to remain the same, Partin predicted that county real-estate tax revenues would decline by $36,268 and personal property would decrease by $340,919 compared with this fiscal year.
Each penny added to the real-estate rate would produce about $266,968 in additional county revenue, or about $245,683 after various deductions, he said.
The proposal also calls for a 5 percent increase in user rates to all utility customers, which would create an additional $104,794 in revenue. This is the third increase in user rates in the last three years, Partin said, since the housing slump has not allowed the utility system to be self-sufficient.
The proposed budget will include an increase in debt service payments, costs for employee health and dental insurance, costs for inmates and at-risk youth and families, and for rising gas prices.
What is not included in the proposed budget is funding for:
Five career firefighter/medic positions that had been covered by a grant that expires in September.
Repairs to the HVAC system at Caroline High School.
Public safety vehicles, equipment or bus replacements.
And for the fourth consecutive year, there will be no cost-of-living increase or merit pay for employees despite a decline in take-home pay from increased health insurance premiums, he said.
No new positions are proposed except for a wastewater treatment plant operator, which is mandatory due to the expansion of the plant. Partin said the continuing slump in new home construction means new water and sewer connections won’t cover debt service for infrastructure investments. He projects a transfer of $1.3 million to cover debt service payments in the utility fund.
Schools would get $11.5 million from the county, which is the same funding it received this year. That is $2.5 million less than the $14 million the School Board has requested.
Also, there is $7.5 million in capital projects, which includes $1.5 million for the Bowling Green Primary School renovation and $6 million for a public safety radio system to comply with the Federal Communications Commission narrow-band mandate and improve the system’s performance.
There are a few capital projects that were approved for this year, but will be deferred because money has not been borrowed yet. Those include a new Carmel Church Fire Station, construction to replace the Sparta Volunteer Fire Station, Ladysmith Solid Waste site expansion, recreational park expansion and a new van for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419