Speakers support tax increase

Published 12:50 pm Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four people spoke in favor of Buckingham County’s proposed $46.5 million budget that includes a 5-cent real estate tax rate increase, while only one person spoke in opposition at a public hearing on Monday.

County residents Quinn Robinson, Marie Flowers, Pat Howe and Jane Poulter spoke in favor of the budget while David Colona opposed the proposed budget and advertised rates.

The fiscal year 2016-17 budget, if approved, would bring the county’s tax rate to 55 cents per $100 of assessed value from the current 50 cents. The budget also proposes increasing the public service corporation tax on real estate by the same amount, from 50 cents to 55 cents per $100 of assessed value.

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“I think the budget is reasonable,” Robinson said during the public hearing. “If we can do the things that are outlined, that’s fine.”

He called the money proposed for the Commonwealth Regional Council and Virginia’s Growth Alliance “wasted.”

“We’re competing, in terms of the Virginia Growth Alliance, with the same counties all around us. They’re all getting the same options to things that are being proposed. It just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

He encouraged the board to sequester funds generated by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “It hasn’t happened yet and the election may have an influence on this.”

He spoke in favor of the proposed new library project, to which the budget allocates $250,000 for debt payments.

“It’s my opinion that a low tax rate benefits people who have the most,” Flowers said, “and there (are) some opinions that taxes shouldn’t go up no matter what. I feel that our educational system is very, very important, also the library. I would hope that all of you would consider the good of the county before any ideological consideration of no tax increase.”

After thanking County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter for her budget presentation, Howe asked the board to heed her advice in the budget and tax rates. “She has the knowledge and the experience … I would like you to listen to her.”

She encouraged the board to pass the proposed budget.

“I also want to support raising the taxes,” Poulter said. “I think the board needs to take fiduciary responsibility to make sure there are sufficient reserves so that the county can cover unplanned, unexpected expenses.”

“You need to take the responsibility to recognize that reserves need to be set aside so you don’t have to do do a special unplanned, unexpected assessment on everybody to cover something that common sense tells you put a few pennies aside each year.”

“The working-class folks in this county, taxpaying people, are already overburdened,” Colona said. “We’re not getting the raises that are proposed to a lot of county and state officials. Landowners around here choose to live here because it’s rural. And we’d like to keep it that way.”

He said that with the increase in real estate taxes comes the potential for the subdivision of land. “The next thing you know, the city moves out here,” he said.

“…This is how you lose rural America.”

Following the hearing, supervisors recessed their meeting until May 21 at 6 p.m. for another budget work session with the county’s school board. “The board has some questions they want to discuss with the school board. We just thought the best thing to do is to have a work session …,” said District Six Supervisor and Board Chairman Joe N. Chambers Jr.

According to Carter, who presented budget numbers to the public before the hearing, the increases would bring in about $710,000 more in revenue in real estate tax collections and about $300,000 more in real and tangible personal property of public service corporations.

The proposed tax increase would provide the school division with an additional $301,999 for operational expenses, including two new school buses, Ident-A-Kid software, special education vehicles and additional maintenance funding, according to Carter. She said the increase would also “build a reserve for expenses that we know are coming for the next several years. For example, we already know the school’s VRS (Virginia Retirement System costs will increase by) an additional $240,000 in the 2018 fiscal year.”

She said without a tax increase, “there is no money for school general capital repairs to building or to any county properties, (solid) waste site or for any emergencies that may occur, without dipping into the general fund reserve of $4.2 million.” 

The proposed school budget totals $23.8 million, including debt service, she said.