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Supervisors to decide tax rate Tuesday

No one from the public offered comments following Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley’s 2021-22 budget presentation Tuesday evening.

The public hearing on the proposed budget was one of the final steps toward approving the county’s spending plan for the coming year. The Board of Supervisors will meet to consider approval of the budget and set the final tax rate Tuesday, April 27, at 7 p.m.

Currently, the budget has an advertised rate of 51 cents per $100 valuation of real property. That would be an 8-cent increase over the equalized rate of 43 cents following the county’s property reassessment that increased property values by an average of 18.27%.

It is unlikely the board will support a 51-cent tax rate. In earlier meetings, supervisors have spoken in support of a 43-cent rate while increasing sales taxes or adding meals, lodging and cigarette taxes to accomplish needed capital improvement projects.

At the current 51-cent rate, a homeowner with a $200,000  home before the reassessment paid $1,020 in county taxes. After the reassessment and if the 51-cent rate remains, the homeowner would pay $186.35 more in taxes per year.

The total budget currently shows an increase of 7.98%, or $4,690,650. The budget includes a 5% salary increase for all county employees. An additional full-time position has been added in the budget for the Sheriff’s Office for courthouse security. The Sheriff’s Office will also add a part-time receptionist position.

The county has a long list of potential capital improvement projects including roof replacement for the elementary school, convenience site upgrades, potentially replacing and relocating the  station for the Prince Edward County Volunteer Rescue Squad and replacing the animal shelter. The current budget has $1.4 million included for capital improvement plans. Any reductions in the rate would reduce those funds.

The proposed budget also includes the full funding increase of $517,010 requested by the school board. The request includes three new positions: a transition counselor, a family support specialist and a new English as a second language teacher.

Stanley provided some key comparisons between Prince Edward and seven peer counties surrounding Prince Edward. The seven peer counties are Appomattox, Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties. Prince Edward County is eighth out of eight counties in total expenditures at $2,023.58 per person. The county is also last among the peer counties in education spending and health and welfare spending.

The county is seventh out of the eight peer counties in government administration, public works, law enforcement and traffic control and public library support.

“I’m not saying we are cheap. I’m saying we get a great return on our investment,” Stanley said. “I think our people do a good job for what we provide to our community. I just want to respond when I hear people talk about how we spend too much money as far as the investment.”

Prince Edward is above the average of the peer counties in the areas of correction and detention, public safety and community development.

If the supervisors stick with the 51-cent rate, Prince Edward would still have the third lowest rate among the peer counties. If the board moves to the 43-cent equalized rate, Prince Edward would have the second lowest rate with only Lunenburg County at 38 cents having a lower property tax rate.

“I’m not hearing a lot of screaming in my district because, most of them, if it’s a couple hundred dollars or $300 dollars more, it’s not really a big factor,” Supervisor Jim Wilck said. “But I’m sure, in other areas, it will be.”