Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, State Senator Edd Houck spoke about the state budget and how decisions in Richmond affect Spotsylvania County. The supervisors had some other topics to chat about too:
Unfunded mandates:This topic came up a lot. Mainly, the supervisors asked Houck to go back to the General Assembly and tell them the unfunded mandates create a burden for the county. Houck replied that the unfunded mandates generally start at the federal level, get passed to the state and then to the county.
Supervisor Hap Connors said he had county staff look into unfunded mandates and discovered that they account for 20 cents of every 86 cents taxed to county residents. He spoke to the audience, who had mostly requested a flat or reduced tax rate in the next budget, and said, “I can cut your property taxes by 20 cents if you could just put the right people down in Richmond.”
As the topic came up quite a bit, I’ll definitely be looking into this more. Off the top of my head, the only unfunded mandate that comes to mind is special education. And after a cursory search, it seems that others include emergency relief, early intervention, environmental regulations and a few other regulations on taxes and human rights.
Taxation Mixups:Another big topic was taxes. Mainly, Spotsylvania has been unable to collect all of the taxes owed to the county. The issue centers on the zip codes in the county. Two zip codes–22407 and 22408–have “Fredericksburg” as the mailing address. In some cases, this means that sales tax revenue goes to the city instead of the county.Some personal property taxes are sent to the wrong locality, too, and residents have told stories of learning they had to pay taxes to a neighboring locality, even after insisting they live in Spotsylvania. Board chair Gary Skinner said this has also been affecting the gas tax now that the county belongs to VRE. He said the county can identify every gallon of gas sold in the county but has not received the commensurate taxes. He said that when calling the state Department of Taxation, county employees were told that it would be a year before this could be remedied.
Houck said this was ridiculous and that Spotsylvania had been struggling with this issue for too long. He said he would write something into the budget or draft an amendment.
“I think it’s a high time I, as a representative of this county, take action to make sure we can get this problem solved,” Houck said to applause from those attending the meeting.
He later said, “Let’s see if we can crack this egg; we’ll put a full court press on this issue.”
Supervisors also complained about the Dillon Rule, which limits localities’ powers in Virginia. They said this rule especially crippled their ability to find other revenue sources besides sales and personal property taxes.
And they asked about the pension fund for Virginia employees. For this fiscal year, the General Assembly voted to put off paying its share of the fund in order to balance the budget. But Houck said the fund is fiscally sound.