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Spotsylvania to advertise 87-cent tax rate

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Spotsylvania County’s real estate tax rate will drop by at least a penny this year.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 5–2 to advertise a rate of 87 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is 1 cent lower than the current rate of 88 cents.

Supervisors Gary Skinner and Chris Yakabouski cast the dissenting votes, but for different reasons. Skinner supported a higher advertised rate, and Yakabouski said he thought it should’ve been a penny lower.

Supervisor Greg Cebula had requested advertising an 88-cent rate, but Skinner was the only board member to support that motion. The majority of supervisors think the current 88-cent rate should be lowered because of higher taxable values of homes in this year’s reassessment.

But Cebula, a Republican, said that advertising that rate “will encourage public participation and in no way obligates raising taxes.”

Skinner said the 88-cent rate “shows that we do want to listen to our constituents out there and let them tell us exactly how they feel about the tax rate and what they’re willing to pay, especially for education and safety issues.”

By state law, board members can lower but not raise a rate after it has been advertised.

Spotsylvania Education Association members who attended the meeting appeared to support Cebula’s call for an 88-cent advertised rate. The school system is asking for a $1.9 million increase in local taxpayer dollars for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Each penny on the tax rate equals about $1.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

A public hearing on the tax rate and proposed spending plan is scheduled for April 3 at Courtland High School. Supervisors are scheduled to adopt a budget and tax rate on April 15.

The county would need to approve an equalized tax rate of 86 cents to maintain its revenue stream from the real estate tax. Supervisor Paul Trampe said he supported advertising an 87-cent rate in case the equalized rate goes up after property owners appeal their assessments.

Residential property increased by an average of 5 percent in this year’s assessment, according to Commissioner of Revenue Debbie Williams. Commercial property decreased by 2.9 percent.

Supervisors Chairman David Ross said homeowners would pay more in taxes even under an 86-cent rate. “Anything higher than that 86 cents is going to be a greater increase for our residents,” Ross said.

Supervisor Ann Heidig said she received a call from a constituent who told her he’d lose his home if his tax bill went up. Ross said he’d also heard from residents on fixed incomes.

“It’s not done lightly what we do here tonight,” Ross said.

The owner of a home worth $228,000—the average value in Spotsylvania—would pay $1,983 in real estate taxes under the advertised rate. It’s unclear what percentage of homeowners’ tax bills would increase, decrease or stay the same.

Anti-tax sentiment runs strong among the majority of supervisors on the seven-member board.

In 2012, board members approved an 88-cent tax rate that was two cents less than what the county administrator had recommended. And last year, the board rejected a request by Supervisor Gary Skinner to advertise a 1-cent tax increase.

During his presentation of the proposed budget earlier this month, County Administrator Doug Barnes asked supervisors to “consider the need for flexibility in the rate” because of a shortfall in his proposed budget.

Spotsylvania Education Association President Peter Pfotenhauer said he thinks supervisors have “set a ceiling that may not be high enough to meet all of their expenses.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402