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‘Tighten the budget,’ town council is told

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The budget shows the marina as being self supporting. “It never has, I don’t think it ever will. And we know it’s not doing it now,” he said.

by Tom Chillemi

“Maybe the only solution, if we have to raise taxes again, is that maybe we should think about un-incorporating.” —Jim Ray, resident

If Urbanna’s proposed town budget is adopted, resident Jim Ray’s town real estate taxes will have increased 93% in two years, he told the Urbanna Town Council during Monday’s budget public hearing.

Ray said his Urbanna real estate taxes increased 75% in the 2008-09 budget, and the proposed 2009-10 town budget calls for a 10 percent real estate tax rate increase—from 20 cents to 22 cents per $100.

When the county-wide real estate reassessment took effect in 2008, Ray’s non-waterfront house assessment, even after he appealed, went from $153,300 to $309,800, he said. That’s an increase of 102%.

To level fund (no increases) the town budget after the reassessment would have required cutting the tax rate in half, which did not happen. Instead council lowered its real estate tax rate from 23 cents to 20 cents.

An additional $88,000 was added to the budget for legal expenses to fight a condominium lawsuit.

Ray told council his town taxes in 2007 were $352; and in 2008 taxes went to $619, which is a 75% increase.

Under the proposed 22-cent tax rate for 2009-10, Ray said his taxes would rise to $681, a 93% increase from 2007-08. During the same period his Middlesex County taxes increased 36%, he noted. The county did not raise taxes for the upcoming 2009-10 fiscal year.

Ray told council he respected their judgment. However, he called for reducing expenses, cutting overhead, and “tightening our belts.”

He said taxpayers’ incomes are not increasing, and virtually every government is reducing expenses.

“Maybe the only solution, if we have to raise taxes again, is that maybe we should think about un-incorporating (the town),” said Ray, a town resident for 43 years.

Taxes average more than $1,600 per household in Urbanna, said Ray.

“If we can’t live within our means then I think we have to take some serious steps. The town existed for over 200 years before it was incorporated. It will still exist,” he said.

“Where are we going to go from here? This is only going to get worse, so you can’t raise taxes year after year to cover these things,” continued Ray.

Ray suggested holding a voter referendum on doing away with the town charter.

Mayor Beatrice Taylor said the town received less meals tax revenues than expected in the current fiscal year. “We didn’t want to raise anybody’s taxes, but if you look through the budget, you’ll see why things had to be done,” she said.

Council will raise the meals tax and the lodging tax from 4% to 5% in the 2009-10 budget. The meals tax is projected to bring in $72,000 in 2008-09, and $90,000 in 2009-10.
Mayor Taylor noted town employees will not receive a raise in the 2009-10 budget, which begins July 1.

During the discussion, councilman Don Richwine questioned several line items of the budget and suggested the finance committee take another look at the budget to see if anything can be trimmed to reduce the $24,000 needed to keep the tax rate at 20 cents.

Richwine noted the town “has about twice the number of employees we had 5 years ago. That has cost us.” If the town does not want to reduce staff, “We have to conserve everywhere else,” he said.

A finance committee meeting is scheduled for June 12 at 3 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

Council has until June 30 to adopt a budget. Its next regular meeting is June 15. A work session is set for June 5 at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

The proposed 2009-10 budget totals $578,000, up from $503,000 in the current “estimated” 2008-09 budget.

Marina expenses

Ray also was concerned about the cost of the town marina, which he said is being subsidized with tax dollars.

The budget shows the marina as being self supporting. “It never has, I don’t think it ever will. And we know it’s not doing it now,” he said.

Filling said the marina “broke even” last year. He also said the auditor told the town to put the marina manager’s salary under the “administration” category.

After the meeting, Ray said the marina manager’s salary ($23,137) is not listed under marina expenses.

Gary Thimsen said the slip rental at the town marina is too high and boaters can find cheaper slips elsewhere.

Bob Calves said that when he docked at the town marina he paid $250 a month—$3,000 a year— while he can get a slip on Urbanna Creek for about half as much.

Marina chairman Don Richwine said he would schedule a meeting to discuss marina issues.

posted 05.20.2009

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