By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted on Feb. 18 to advertise a maximum real estate tax rate of $0.935 per $100 assessed.
The supervisors got a 4-1 vote on advertising the tax rate for over 30 days. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) dissented. The $0.935 is the absolute ceiling but supervisors can vote to lower it from there.
How the rate changed from county administrator Steve Nichols’ budget proposal of $0.895 was increasing county departments funding across the board, JAUNT, Region 10, Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Sheriff’s Office. Increasing the tax revenue also allowed to account for raises for county staff and the school budget line increase.
Nichols’ proposal had cut county departments operationally 10 percent across the board. The proposed rate increase would bring that decrease in half, to five percent. JAUNT and Region 10 were had received a cut in Nichols proposals but both agencies were increased in the current supervisors’ draft.
The increase in DSS budget was to add an employee. The county pays only a portion of the staff salary so for a modest amount, the county gets a full salary position. The Sheriff Office increase was to help alleviate any need to lower staffing next year. Part time deputies and a school resource officer were potentially up for cuts.
Increasing revenue for a potential government employees’ raise was because of a current proposal in the General Assembly. The raises would allow the county to pay a portion of increasing staff pay. Nichols’ budget included just a $500 bonus for staff.
The schools were only getting an increase of $331,000 in Nichols’ proposal. However, that was more like level funding because the state’s contribution next year would be $331,000 less.
The supervisors cannot dictate how the School Board allocates its budget. However, the supervisors found merit to increase the school budget line by another $579,000 because of staff raises (similarly as described above) and health insurance increases. The School Board will have final say of how its budget allocation is spent but the increase was in the spirit of those items.
The School Board requested $334,000 more than what is in the Board of Supervisors’ current draft budget.
“I’m extremely sensitive to the economy,” schools superintendent Gena Keller told the board as she presented her budget.
She later said, “We end the budget year sliding into home.”
Supervisors added to the tax rate for staff pay and health insurance increase but items like additional school staff, staff development and technology would’ve required another penny to a penny and a half.
“I want the schools to get everything they need but we need to find places,” said chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District).
Rivanna District supervisor Tony O’Brien said, “My opinion, the (school) budget presented is a good budget. We are just short-changing ourselves.”
The county has to fund increases in CSA, jail and debt service. New projects like Zion Crossroads water infrastructure and James River Water Authority are also bearing the reason for a tax increase.
Now supervisors will hold a public hearing on April 1 on the tax rate. The $0.935 per $100 assessed is the maximum it can be set. Supervisors can vote to have a lower tax rate.
This year supervisors have to advertise the rate for 30 days because of the reassessment. Property values increased more than one percent and state code requires additional advertisement time because of it.
Also at the Feb. 18 meeting, supervisors approved rezoning land in the Zion Crossroads area from agricultural to industrial. The land is currently used as a lumber yard. The new zoning will allow a 24,000 square foot storage building for the wood pellets operation.
The board also approved requiring by ordinance a public notice road sign any time a zoning or special use permit hearing is required. Previously it was done as practice but now it will be required by county code.
Supervisors approved confirming Feb. 17 as a local emergency event, thus allowing response to the winter weather to be eligible for possible state funds.
Finally, the board awarded a contract for the Fork Union Streetscape Project. The project will dress up Route 15 from the post office to Route 6. The 1,600 feet will get additional sidewalk, curb and guttering. New street lights and trees will be installed.
The Board of Supervisors will next convene on Feb. 25 for a budget work session with constitutional officers.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
Photo Credits: Fluvanna County