Airplane tax could increase, Giles’ recommended budget assumes utility rate hike

Published 11:51 am Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A 14 percent increase in utility revenues and an increase in the personal property tax on airplanes from 50 cents to $1.50 per $100 of assessed value are proposed in the $30.6 million recommended budget that Cumberland County Administrator and County Attorney Vivian Seay Giles presented to county supervisors.

Supervisors will hear public input on the fiscal year 2016-17 budget on April 5 at 7 p.m. in the county’s circuit courtroom. On April 12, the board could adopt the budget during its regularly scheduled meeting.

Gerald Spates

Gerald Spates

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The 14 percent increase in utility revenues would come from increased fees — which supervisors have been considering for months — and increased collections. “But, primarily a rate increase, because that’s what I’ve recommended,” Giles said. “It’s not a pure 14 percent. We have different categories. But, I’m just assuming, for budget purposes, that our total revenue will go up about that much.”

Besides the increased personal property tax on airplanes, all other tax rates would remain the same under Giles’ recommended budget.

The increased airplane tax could bring in about $10,000 more annually. “This was generated with them (the supervisors). This was not

a recommendation that I came up with really … It was based on board input.”

The Farmville Regional Airport is located in southern Cumberland, and houses about 26 airplanes. “The property has to be located in the county,” Giles said.

“As a matter of equity, an increase in the airplane rate is long overdue,” said District Two Representative and Board Chairman Lloyd Banks. “This rate is likely to increase annually until it is aligned with other forms of personal property.”

Currently, property owners in Cumberland pay $4.50 per $100 of assessed value on vehicles, motorcycles, trailers, boats, RVs, and on personal property for business use. The heavy equipment and machinery and tools tax is $3.75. Real estate is taxed at $0.74 per $100 of assessed value.

“It’s going to affect us because you’re going to have people looking at going to other airports rather than here if they can find a place that the personal property tax is cheaper,” Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates said. “The thing with the town is we don’t get any of the either real estate or personal property tax at all, so, all that money goes straight to Cumberland.”

The recommended tax increase concerns Spates. “Why all of a sudden (are) they going up (with a) 200 percent increase … Going from $.50 cents to $1.50 may not seem like a lot of money, but … it depends on what they base the aircraft at, it’s going to be a significant amount.”

District Five Supervisor Parker Wheeler said that he was still examining the recommended budget. “Well, I’m thinking on it … Right now I’m still in limbo,” Wheeler said when asked about the recommended increase on the personal property tax for airplanes.

“If Cumberland would put the money back into the airport it would be one thing. But they don’t do nothing out there,” said longtime pilot and plane owner Syd Newman, of Farmville.

The recommended budget calls for level funding in for the public schools in local money, allocating a recommended $3.8 million.

Over $4 million of the budget is dedicated to debt service. The largest debt service line item is for the renovated high and middle schools.

The budget includes a step increase for county employees. “It’s not an across-the-board increase, but it would be people who’ve been here five years or 10 years or 15 years who will hit that in the fiscal year,” Giles said. The recommended step increase in salary would affect the budget by $16,146.

“You may note that the total budget, as shown, is higher than the fiscal year 2016 total budget by $2,279,212, the vast majority of which is attributable to outside (primarily federal and state) funding,” she said in her summary to county supervisors. “However, anticipated local funding also is higher than the fiscal year 2016 budget, an increase of $371,646. This escalation in revenue is due, however, to an increased utilization of earmarked funds for debt service coupled with a small (less than two percent) increase in projected revenue generally. In short, the increased revenue forecast does not alter the county’s current path to any meaningful degree.”

Contributions to emergency service agencies are equalized in the recommended budget, she said. “The resulting funding is reflective of shifting needs as communicated by those agencies.” Giles is recommending $39,500 for the county’s fire departments and rescue squads, except the Cartersville Rescue Squad, which requested $37,970 in funding.