Buckingham County supervisors raise tax rates in budget vote

Published 12:26 am Tuesday, April 25, 2023

DILLWYN – Local residents will see their tax rate jump when the new fiscal year starts. During their Monday, April 24 meeting, Buckingham County supervisors voted 6-1, with Don Matthews Jr. opposed, to raise the real estate tax rate from the current 0.52 cents to 0.55 cents per $100 of assessed value. Also, aircraft taxes will jump from 0.52 cents to $1.10 per $100 of assessed value and the public service corporation tax rate will go from 0.52 to 0.55 as well. 

As for how that compares to the rest of the region in terms of real estate tax, Lunenburg County is the lowest at 38 cents, Nottoway is at 48 cents and Prince Edward will be right above that at 51, when their tax increase takes effect. The highest in the region by far is Cumberland, which currently stands at 75 cents. Appomattox County is behind that at 63 cents and Charlotte County is at 62. Buckingham County is right above Prince Edward at 55 cents.

“We’re still in pretty good shape when it comes to tax rate,” Buckingham County Administrator Karl Carter said. “The ones like Prince Edward, they have a lot more retail, so they have more supplemented revenue. Others have a meals tax. With that in mind, we’re doing pretty good.” 

Email newsletter signup

For each penny increased on the real estate tax, the county staff collects an estimated $150,000. So for this upcoming year, that real estate bump alone will bring in $450,000. As for the impact on residents, it’ll go like this. If someone has a home worth $100,000, under the current tax they’d pay $520. Under the increase, they’ll pay $550. Let’s say someone’s house is worth $300,000. Currently, they pay $1,040 in real estate taxes. In the new fiscal year, it’ll be $1,100. 

Why is a tax hike needed? 

There are multiple reasons why Buckingham County staff recommended the increase. Part of that involves the local Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The county fully staffs stations in Dillwyn and Glenmore. But there’s one issue. This will actually be the first year Buckingham is paying for that on its own, with no outside funding help. With 21 full-time and eight part-time staff, the bill comes to $1,839,752.
Cost recovery, that is collecting reimbursement from health insurance and any co-pays, is expected to cover $1 million of that. A 4 for Life grant will add $20,000. That leaves $819,752 the county has to pull from the general fund balance.
“That’s part of your tax increase,” Carter told supervisors during their Monday, April 17 meeting. “We knew when we took over EMS a few years ago that it wouldn’t pay for itself. It was not self-sustaining. Cost recovery will not support that alone. It’s going to need help from your general fund.”
And that’s not a one-time problem either, Carter pointed out. It’s an ongoing issue that Buckingham will have to look at. 

Then there’s the schools. Buckingham County Public Schools requested a budget of $33,209,302. Now to be clear, that’s all not coming out of local pockets. Out of that number, $24,987,525 will be from state and federal sources, with the county just administering the money. It’s the remaining $8,221,777 that local residents are being asked to pay for. 

Buckingham County schools currently have 1,845 students. That’s up 28 from this same time last year. Their problem is the same one all school districts have been dealing with since January. The Virginia General Assembly has not adopted a budget yet. In fact, there are three versions of the state budget floating around, all with differing figures when it comes to how much the district will receive. There’s the Senate version, the House version and the “skinny” version, aka the bare bones.
“The last I heard, the state was saying they might not adopt their budget until June,” Carter told supervisors on April 17.
But that creates a problem in that the district can’t wait around. Bills still have to be paid. As a result, they’re asking the county for an extra $623,461, which will come out of the general fund. 

The state confusion leads to another issue for Buckingham. The Assembly has announced they want a 7% increase for all employees in one version of the budget. Another version calls for a 5% raise. But since it’s still not clear, Buckingham has to set aside enough to cover their portion of whichever version eventually passes.
“As we always do, we’ll mimic what the state does,” Carter said. “So if the state decides on a 5% rate, that’s what we’ll go with. Same with a 7% raise.” 

Next steps for Buckingham County supervisors 

Actually, Monday’s meeting was the final step on the local level. The budget will now go into effect July 1. When the state does pass a budget, if any changes to the local version need to be made, Buckingham County supervisors can just amend it during an upcoming session.