By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
It took a while, but the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted to raise real estate taxes for the upcoming year. It took three motions for the majority of the supervisors to vote to make the real estate tax rate $0.917 per $100 assessed. Chairman Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) joined Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) voting in favor of the tax rate and associated budget. Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) dissented.
While less than requested, the budget that passed includes $1.1 million more for the schools, compared to the FY16 budget. $300,000 of that is slated in the Capital Improvements Plan for technology upgrades. According to state code, the School Board has the final authority regarding their spending. The FY17 request from the School Board was $1.6 million.
The rest of the county budget increase includes additional funds for new positions on county staff, county staff pay increase and some modest increases for various county departments.
The budget didn’t pass easily. First, the supervisors discussed the tax rates they were individually comfortable passing. O’Brien and Booker advocated for $0.92 per $100 because it included the $1.1 million for the schools.
“It isn’t going to get easier next year or the year after that. I understand that,” said O’Brien. He concluded if supervisors don’t do as much as they could for the schools this year, it would set deferred programs even further back.
Weaver and Eager advocated for no tax increase. Eager suggested there is no outcry because there is a sentiment that supervisors aren’t listening.
“I think a lot of people have given up,” said Eager.
Sheridan ended the discussion saying he heard residents say they understand the rate will rise but wanted a modest increase. He suggested $0.914 per $100. That would give schools $1 million.
O’Brien made a motion for Sheridan’s suggested $0.914. Booker slowly seconded the motion to bring it to a vote. It failed 3-2 with Booker joining Eager and Weaver voting against it.
Booker then moved a $0.92 rate with O’Brien seconding. That restored the $100,000 for the schools, added increases for county departments and included a small capital depreciation fund that would offset future replacement costs of buildings.
That motion failed on a 3-2 vote with Sheridan, Eager and Weaver voting against it.
O’Brien moved a $0.917 tax rate. The budget for $0.917 was the same as $0.92 but removed the capital depreciation fund. It also took $13,000 from the $1.1 million the schools were to receive so total county revenue would equal expenditures.
After calling for a vote, Booker and O’Brien voted in favor with Eager and Weaver voting against it. Sheridan announced it passed with the chairman voting in favor.
The CIP was unanimously approved. Included on it were $6 million of water projects and first priority projects around the county.
The vote on the budget was witnessed by many of the same people who watched the budget work sessions. Missing was general county residents. It was largely a process watched by interested parties such as county staff, constitutional officers, volunteer organizational leaders, volunteers on county boards and media. Most meetings were watched by less than a handful of people outside of those groups.
Also at the April 20 meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved a small home industry to operate on Bybee’s Church Road. Two home businesses related to natural healing.
The meeting ended with a discussion on scheduling who will be the chairperson on a rotating basis. Booker raised the point as a way to have the chairperson role rotate through the board.
Both Booker and O’Brien were concerned about the process of selecting a chairman this past year. Weaver said he had no issue with the way it worked.
State code requires local boards to elect a chairperson unless a chairperson is voted by the constituency. There could be an agreement how the chair will rotate, but it would still have to be voted on regularly.
The supervisors didn’t have any resolution on the item after discussion. The next Board of Supervisors meeting is May 4 at 4 p.m.
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 Credit: Fluvanna County