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Spotsy schools may get more

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Spotsylvania County’s personal property tax rate may go up this year to generate more money for schools.

Even so, tax bills will head in the opposite direction for many residents thanks to a decrease in the taxable value of vehicles, Supervisor Paul Trampe said Tuesday while making his case for a higher rate.

Trampe recommended increasing the personal property tax rate by 12 cents, from $6.37 to $6.49 per $100 of assessed value.

He stressed that the proposal was “making a tax cut already inherent in the budget smaller, as opposed to increasing taxes.”

Eighty-two percent of taxpayers would pay less in taxes than last year under Trampe’s proposal, so long as they don’t buy new cars, county Senior Financial Analyst Bonnie Jewell said.

The proposed rate increase would generate an additional $768,000 in revenue, of which $628,000 would be earmarked for schools. That amount wouldn’t even cover half of the school system’s estimated budget shortfall of almost $1.6 million.

Still, School Board Chairman Jim Meyer said in an interview that “any help is good news.”

“I’m glad to see that the Board of Supervisors is looking at a reoccurring, sustainable funding stream,” he said. “That is definitely encouraging because that will help us in the outer years.”

The other supervisors didn’t react one way or the other to Trampe’s proposed rate increase.

Next Tuesday the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve tax rates and the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Trampe also recommended a real estate tax rate of 86 cents per $100 of assessed value, which is two cents less than the current rate and a penny less than what was advertised. That equalized, 86-cent rate would essentially maintain the county’s revenue stream from the real estate tax.

The taxable value of homes in Spotsylvania increased by 5 percent this year, so some residents will pay more real estate taxes despite the proposed rate decrease. The owner of a home worth $228,000—the average value in Spotsylvania—would pay $1,960 under the 86-cent rate.

Meanwhile, the taxable value of vehicles in Spotsylvania decreased by 9.4 percent this year after the National Automobile Dealers Association updated its appraisals. Supervisors would need to increase the personal property tax rate by 66 cents, to $7.03, to “fully counteract” that decrease in car values, according to county finance staff.

Trampe, who campaigned on lower taxes before he was elected in 2011, said he considers anything less than that rate of $7.03 to be a tax cut.

His proposed rate would generate about $48.1 million, or $800,000 more than the county expects to collect in personal property taxes during the current fiscal year. The increase in revenue is attributed to more vehicles in the county and residents who buy new cars.

“I know there are going to be fiscal conservatives out there saying you’re nuts, you’re increasing the personal property rate, how can you call that a tax cut?” Trampe said. “And I know that because we did this two years ago, and that’s what I heard.”

In 2012, supervisors increased the personal property tax rate by 11 cents after car values declined. They didn’t change the rate last year.

The average taxable value of a car in Spotsylvania this year is $6,085, a decrease of $771 from last year. Spotsylvania taxes just 50 percent of a car’s appraised value.

The owner of a vehicle worth the average amount would pay almost $395 under Trampe’s proposed rate.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402