Berryville and Boyce are will soon be receiving a little extra income due to an oversight by Clarke County Treasurer Sharon Keeler’s office. According to Clarke County Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge, the treasurer’s office owes the towns approximately $70K in undistributed sales tax revenue.
Judge told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Monday that the Commonwealth of Virginia mandates that sales tax revenues collected by the county be shared with municipalities – in Clarke’s case Berryville and Boyce. Judge said that the revenue sharing formula mandated by the General Assembly is based on a school census data. However, over the last three years the county has been providing Berryville and Boyce with funding based on a 2005 census figure rather than adjusting the payments to newer 2008 census figures as required by law.
Clarke County currently collects approximately $750K per year in sales tax. JAS director Tom Judge said that the error means that the county held back approximately $2000 per month that should have gone to the towns.
Judge said that the $70K tax refunds will have to be deducted from the county’s general funds Judge said.
Prior to a 2010 General Assembly action, local school divisions were required to conduct a triennial census of all school-age persons residing in a school division every three years. The census was used to determine the distribution of state sales revenues and use tax proceeds to school divisions as a part of the Basic Aid funding formula for public education.
However, amendments to the Code of Virginia have replaced the triennial census with an annual estimate of the school-aged population – 5 to 19 year olds – from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
Although the tax distribution rates are supposed to change with each new school census, the Treasurer’s office apparently continued to distribute tax revenues based on 2005 census figures rather than adjusting to the new 2008 figures. The 2010 statutory changes meant that the Clarke County school division is no no longer required to conduct a triennial census in 2011. It is not clear if the lack of new school census data is what prompted the tax distribution oversight to be identified.
Clarke County Treasurer Sharon Keeler is currently away from the office on medical leave and was not available for comment on this story.
The tax correction payment comes at a time when the county’s budget is already tight. Even so, Clarke Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) said that the size of the error makes it manageable from a finance standpoint.
“Looking forward, the $25K a year reduction in county tax revenue shouldn’t affect next year’s budget too much” Staelin said. “The error is small enough that we can handle it.”