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Middlesex proposes 2-cent tax increase

by Larry Chowning

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to advertise a proposed $19,770,137 county and school budget for 2013-14 (FY14) that calls for a 2-cent real estate tax increase. The proposed rate is 48 cents per $100 of value.

County administrator Matt Walker reported that about $400,000 in delinquent real estate taxes have caused the county to be “well short of the $10.3 million” in projected revenue from real estate taxes in the current fiscal year (FY13). The county has collected $9.8 million in real estate taxes to date, he said. The fiscal year ends on June 30, 2013.

“For a county like Middlesex, which depends on half of its income coming from real estate taxes, it hits us hard when there are delinquencies,” said Walker. “When there is a blip in real estate tax for us, it really hurts.”

Harmony Village District supervisor Jack Miller said, “This should be a sharp realization for us that things are tight for our citizens.”

Board chairman Carlton Revere noted he was unsure of this because he did not know the history of collecting delinquent taxes. “I know the treasurer is working hard to collect the taxes, and some of these funds will be collected,” he said.

Even though there is a collection shortfall, Walker also presented a budget that was balanced without the 2-cent tax hike.

He recommended the tax increase cover anticipated costs related in part to state mandates that require the county to take over authority on storm-water management issues. Previously, this was the responsibility of the state.

The 2-cent increase, which will generate about $425,000 in additional revenues, also will fund some anticipated capital improvements.

“What would happen if we just said ‘no’ to taking over storm-water management?” asked Saluda District supervisor Pete Mansfield.

Revere responded, “We’d best add 10 cents to the tax rate to pay for attorney fees.”

The board also agreed to propose two new positions—an Emergency Services Director (by a 3-2 vote) and an employee to oversee a new County Economic Development Office (by a 4-1 vote).

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Saluda.

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 04.03.2013

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