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Stafford supervisors seek input on taxes

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The Stafford County Board of Supervisors holds public hearings Tuesday for the proposed real estate tax rate and creation of a countywide stormwater district.

Tacked on to the proposed stormwater district is a half-cent tax that would go toward cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

Stafford and Fredericksburg are among 91 counties and cities in Virginia that operate municipal separate storm sewer systems, known as MS4s. Discharges from those are regulated by the Virginia Stormwater Management Act and the federal Clean Water Act.

After the stormwater tax is collected, it will go toward operations, public outreach, construction of new facilities and the rehabilitation of streams, said Stafford Public Works Director Michael Smith.

Rock Hill District Supervisor Cord Sterling opposes designating a separate taxing district for stormwater management.

“When you put something in its own district, people spend what they say they are going to spend and don’t take a hard look at what is being spent,” Sterling said.

But Board Chairman Jack Cavalier wanted to separate the tax out to show it is a state mandate the county must comply with, and a majority of the board supported him. The mandate starts this year and is projected to cost the county $42 million over the next 15 years.

The county is also developing additional regulations under the Virginia Stormwater Management Program, which ensures land-disturbing activities such as construction comply with local ordinances.

“The MS4 permit deals with existing uses and a overall look at the water that enters the Chesapeake Bay,” Smith said. “Land development is specific to the VSMP. The MS4 program is more of a longstanding outlook.”

Public hearings will also be held Tuesday on County Administrator Anthony Romanello’s proposed $261 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and on the proposed real estate rate to support it.

The board has advertised a real estate tax rate of $1.019 per $100 of assessed value. That is effectively an increase of just over a penny and would make the average county homeowner’s tax bill $2,731.

Last year, the rate was $1.07 per $100 of assessed value, creating an average tax bill of $2,657 for homeowners. A reassessment increased the value of most homes, resulting in a lower rate, but a slightly higher average bill.

The board also suggested reducing the personal property tax rate from $6.89 to $6.61 in an attempt to keep the total residents pay in real estate and property taxes the same.

For the stormwater district and other advertised tax rates, the board can approve a lower rate than advertised but cannot increase it without re-advertising the rate.

The board is tentatively scheduled to vote on the tax rates and budget April 29.

Jessica Koers: 540/374-5444


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