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Five-cent tax hike approved

by Larry Chowning

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve a $21,294,176 budget for 2014-15 (FY15), which includes a real estate tax rate of 53 cents per $100 of value—a 5-cent increase on the current 48-cent rate.

The additional 5 cents on the tax rate will generate about $1,075,000.

Pinetop District supervisor Beth Hurd made the motion to adopt the budget and Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie seconded it.

In her motion, Hurd included $8,254,303 in local funds for school operations, $1,080,984 for school debt service, $76,277 for school textbooks, and $200,000 for school bus replacement and capital improvements.

The motion also included a $3.50 per $100 of value on personal property— the same as last year—and a 53-cent rate per $100 on mobile homes, which is up from the current 48-cent rate.

The only supervisor to vote against the motion to approve the budget was Hartfield District supervisor Bob LeBoeuf, who reminded board members that this was a 10.4% increase in revenues and he said it is “too much.” There are no “compelling circumstances” to justify such a tax increase, he said.

LeBoeuf indicated some items, such as higher health-care premiums, higher Virginia Retirement System costs, and the higher cost for incarcerating prisoners, have to be funded. He contended it is the the low-priority items that are raising taxes, and these items should have been evaluated as to what could be cut.

Jessie said he supported land-use taxation, which was established in the 1970s to encourage farming and to keep residential development in check. “We are going to have to look out for our farmers and foresters,” he said.

Jessie noted that some large landowners are considering putting their land into conservation easements, which will establish a lower taxable value on it no matter what the county does with the land-use program.

“None of us want to raise taxes,” he said, “but we can’t go backwards.”

Jessie also said supervisors need to continue to look at other options to offset the high tax burden on county homeowners.

Saluda District supervisor Pete Mansfield said that at the first meeting he ever attended as a supervisor the board had to take out a short-term loan to meet the county payroll. “As a county, we need to be above that,” he said. “We can get away with a 4-cent tax increase, but to run right on the edge is scary.”

Mansfield praised the Middlesex County Public School System. “We have the second best school system in the area and we pay the second lowest salaries to our teachers,” he said. “We need to thank the school board, teachers and everyone else who has worked so hard for our schools.”

He noted that the “state never needs to raise taxes as long as it can pass commitments down to the counties.”

Miller reminded the audience that supervisors also were raising taxes on themselves. “Jack Miller pays taxes too,” he said.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 04.30.2014

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