Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Advertise a higher tax rate or not?
A majority of supervisors last last thwarted Supervisor Gary Skinner’s attempt to advertise a higher tax rate than what is proposed in the fiscal year 2009 budget.
County Administrator Randy Wheeler proposed a budget that keeps the tax rate at 62 cents. That recommendation is still a 6-cent tax increase, because property values increased about 10.5 percent in this year’s assessment. The tax rate would need to drop to 56 cents for tax bills to remain the same.
This budget doesn’t contain raises for county employees; there are no new initiatives. Wheeler recommended keeping school funding the same as this fiscal year.
And the revenue picture became more gloomier in just two weeks when budget staff and Wheeler reported last night the $3.4 million in additional reserves he wanted as a cushion in the 2009 budget has dissolved to just half that amount. He said there will not be any carryover funds for the next fiscal year budget.
Hearing this, Skinner said it might be best to advertise a rate of 65 cents, instead of 62 cents. He said if supervisors advertise a rate of 62 cents, and then want to increase the tax rate, they would have to re-advertise and schedule a second public hearing.
Supervisor Hap Connors agreed with Skinner and said they wouldn’t be approving a 65-cent tax rate, just advertising it. He said the economic downturn hasn’t hit bottom.
The other five supervisors were not swayed.
“No way I could even think about telling anybody we want a 65 cent tax rate,” said Supervisor T.C. Waddy. “Not everybody is rich in this county. It is a shame for us to sit up here and put a burden on the people. They just got an increase in their assessments, and now you want to increase their tax rate? It’s not right.”
Supervisor Gary Jackson said he’s not happy with the proposed budget. He indicated that Wheeler may have to reduce the size of the county government because he has no intentions of voting for a 62-cent tax rate. He wants it to be lower than that, he said.
Skinner and Connors then voted with the majority to advertise a rate of 62 cents.