Buckingham board tables 5-cent tax increase discussion

Published 6:00 am Friday, July 17, 2020

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The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors tabled a request from County Administrator Rebecca Carter to consider scheduling a public hearing to discuss a possible 5-cent property tax increase for the purpose of funding the Buckingham County Emergency Services Department (Buckingham EMS) in its new responsibility as the Emergency Medical Response Agency.

The majority of the monthly meeting Monday night was used to discuss a Memorandum of Transition between the Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors. 

The board approved a request that the assets from the Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad be relinquished to the Buckingham County Emergency Services Department immediately as the transition begins. 

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The tax increase would bring the real estate tax rate for the county to 57 cents per $100 of assessed value. The Board of Supervisors voted in April to set the tax rate at 52 cents after a 10% assessment increase. The rate to offset the increase would have been 50 cents per $100, meaning most taxpayers will already be paying more even before an additional increase. 

According to Carter, the 5-cent increase will provide $1,070,000 if all taxes are collected, or $214,000 per additional one cent added to the property tax rate.

District 2 Supervisor Donnie Bryan recommended the board table discussion of the possible rate increase in order to give Carter adequate time to go back and review alternative options for obtaining funds for Buckingham EMS.

“I would like to go in knowing this is the best avenue we have,” Bryan said. 

Carter advised the board could table the decision until the following month’s meeting, where she would return with other scenarios. She advised a decision would need to be made by September. 

“I’d be the first one to tell you I’m not interested in going up on taxes, but this is something that is required by the County of Buckingham if we take this thing over. It’s not something we are going to take very lightly,” District 3 Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Don Matthews said.

“You can’t put a price on a lot of lives,” District 5 Supervisor and Board Chairman Harry Bryant added. “If it’s got to be done, it’s got to be done.” 

Tuesday afternoon, Buckingham County Emergency Management Coordinator Cody Davis said the last thing any county employees or rescue squad affiliates want to do is increase taxes, but an increase may be necessary due to the large bills surrounding rescue squad operations and the vital infrastructure that citizens call upon. He added revenue recovery covers less than half of the foreseen bills associated with operations. 

He added the system that will be run by the Buckingham EMS after the transition will be somewhat more expensive than previous operations by the volunteer rescue squad, as more paid staffing will be on the roads, as well as the reopening of the Glenmore station and possibly others.

Tuesday, Carter confirmed she is looking for alternatives to a real estate property tax increase to help pay the bills and other expenses associated with the transition. She added the county does not have authority to assess an EMS fee per household and would have to have special approval from the General Assembly to do so.