Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
Supervisors approve 3-cent tax hike
Without debate or discussion, the King George Board of Supervisors approved a tax hike on Monday and a budget that fully funds the school request but includes no new fire and rescue positions.
It took eight minutes for the supervisors to approve a $62.7 million budget and a tax rate of 53 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The brief session capped a budget season that’s been full of twists and turns.
On April 1, Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr. suggested a 3-cent increase in the current tax rate, but his motion didn’t get enough votes to pass.
Supervisor Ruby Brabo suggested asking for a 4-cent increase instead, just in case the county wanted to add some new positions. Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. and John LoBuglio agreed it would be good to have a financial cushion.
The seemingly new majority—of Brooks, Brabo and LoBuglio—got their wishes on a vote for the second time in two months. The trio voted to advertise a 4-cent increase in the tax rate.
Supervisors acknowledged they could pass a lower tax increase if they wanted, but not one higher than they had advertised.
Supervisors held their public hearings on the budget, and no residents spoke against raising taxes. Several asked for a 3-cent hike instead of a four, and others asked the board to hire more fire and rescue workers to keep people and property safe.
Meanwhile, supervisors defended the fire and rescue department, with Sisson calling it one of the “finest rural systems anywhere around.”
But the tune of the board changed the following night.
At an April 19 work session, Supervisor Joe Grzeika—who all along opposed any increase in taxes—said if it looked like the board was going to raise taxes, he wanted to make sure money was spent on the right things.
Out of the blue, he asked what it would cost to hire more emergency services workers. County Administrator Travis Quesenberry gave him some numbers—$210,000 for three workers, twice that much for six.
Other board members excitedly joined in the discussion, talking about places where satellite offices for the fire and rescue department might be located.
The board agreed to have fire and rescue officials, as well as the sheriff, come to yet another budget work session and make a presentation on their needs.
But on April 24, the night that five uniformed officials sat in the front row of the meeting room, the mood was much more somber.
Chairman Brooks knew before the meeting started that he didn’t have the votes for a 4-cent increase.
Quesenberry had told him that LoBuglio no longer supported the hike. In fact, LoBuglio said that he couldn’t support any increase at all.
Brooks said it wasn’t worth wasting the time of the fire and rescue people, for them to make a presentation if there weren’t votes to support hiring more personnel.
LoBuglio’s change in position—brought about, he said, after he talked with a lot of his constituents—led to indignation from Brooks and Brabo.
LoBuglio defended himself at one point, telling Brabo he didn’t have to explain himself to her.
But there was none of that contention on Tuesday night. Sisson made the same motion he’d made more than four weeks earlier. He proposed a 3-cent increase, and the measure passed, 3-2.
Grzeika reiterated that he had opposed a tax increase from the start, and that he couldn’t support the budget or tax rate.
LoBuglio said the same.
As for the fire and rescue positions, Grzeika said last week that he favored waiting to form a plan until he heard a strategic report from the fire department.
Officials have said that will be presented after budget season has passed.
LoBuglio said he and other residents he has talked with want to see proof that the county is trying to recruit more volunteers instead of simply hiring more workers.