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Caroline budget would raise taxes and water rates

BY PORTSIA SMITH

The Caroline County Board of Supervisors is reviewing a proposed budget that would increase the real estate tax, personal property tax and water usage rates.

Board members plan to schedule work sessions later this month to review the proposed budget, presented this past week by County Administrator Charles Culley.

Culley presented a $42.4 million general fund spending plan, which is $2.39 million–or 6 percent–more than this year’s budget, at the board’s meeting last Tuesday.

In his proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Culley suggests increasing the real estate tax by 5 cents, from 72 cents to 77 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“Projected revenues at the current tax rate are not sufficient to pay for the rising debt service and other costs,” Culley said in his proposal. “The proposed real estate tax rate of 77 cents would place Caroline approximately in the middle of 16 comparison localities.”

Neighboring counties’ tax rates range from 53 cents in King George County to 88 cents in Spotsylvania County, he said.

Each penny added to Caroline’s real estate tax rate would produce about $247,499 in county revenue after various deductions, such as land use and elderly relief exemptions, he said.

Culley said Caroline homeowners with a home valued at the average of $160,251 would see real estate tax increases of about $80.12 per year.

Three cents of that tax rate will be used to cover debt service, Culley said.

Personal property tax rates under Culley’s budget would increase by 80 cents, from the current rate of $3.50 per $100 of assessed retail value to $4.30 per $100 of assessed trade value.

Culley said personal property valuation will change from retail value to trade value following complaints from citizens who did not believe their cars or trucks could be sold for the amount of their latest assessments.

Despite the rate increase, the valuation change will cost the county about $85,000 in revenue. Without a rate increase, Culley said, the county could lose $1.4 million, dropping those revenues to fiscal 2009 levels.

The proposal also calls for a 12 percent increase in water user rates, which would bring in an additional $103,443, he said.

Culley’s budget plan would fund 177 full-time employees and 74 part-time employees. It calls for five new positions and an upgraded position, at a cost of $195,517. Those include a mandated wastewater treatment plant operator, a wastewater lab tech, a water operator, two new social workers and a human resources manager position would go from part-time to full-time.

It also includes a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for school and county employees.

“This would be the first real raise for county employees in five years after previously enduring pay cuts and furloughs and increased cost for health insurance,” he said.

Schools would get about $11.77 million from the county, which is $554,380 more than this year. Education receives 49 percent of the county’s budget, he said.

Proposed in the fiscal 2014 Caroline budget is about $1.4 million funding for capital projects, which includes lease purchases for 10 replacement sheriff’s cars, three fire and rescue vehicles, one solid waste roll-off truck and one parks and recreation van. Also included is $65,000 for upgrades to the HVAC unit at the Community Services Center.

“Staff welcomes the opportunity to explore the proposed budget in much detail and work with the Board at future work sessions as the board prepares the proposed FY14 budget for public hearing,” Culley said.

Dates for the work sessions will be set at the board’s Feb. 26 meeting.

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