April, 18, 2012 – 8:30pm
The Clarke County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a one-cent property tax increase tonight bringing the County’s new tax rate to $0.63 per hundred dollars of assessed property value. While the Supervisors deferred adoption of the County’s proposed $38M expenditure budget pending action by the General Assembly on state spending plans, the group unanimously agreed to support the local budget in principle. Barring no unforeseen changes, the two actions provide the Clarke County Commissioner of Revenue and the Treasurer with the information necessary to prepare the tax bills for distribution in May.
Clarke County Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) characterized the one-cent tax hike as $40 a year on a $400K home – a $3.33 per month cost increase.
Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) said that the one-cent reduction, which had been originally discussed as a two-cent tax hike, was not an effort to balance the County’s budget on the backs of the school division and defended the Supervisors’s level of funding support for the schools. Staelin said this year Clarke County Public Schools are receiving an 8% increase in both local funding and an 8% increase in state funding thanks to a favorable composite index change.
“This adds 8% to the school budget and shows tremendous support for education,” Staelin said. Staelin also pointed out that the proposed budget includes a two-percent wage increase for teachers and County employees even though several surrounding counties had rejected pay raises for employees.
Staelin noted that Clarke County ranked 49th of 94 counties in education spending and was in the top 20% for local funding of education.
“For the past four years the Supervisors have approved the school budgets as requested and have given the schools exactly what they’ve asked for,” Staelin said.
Supervisors Bev McCay (White Post), David Weiss (Buckmarsh) and Barbara Byrd (Russell), who had all expressed reservations about a tax increase, agreed to support the one-cent increase for varying reasons. McKay cited mismanagement of the underfunded Virginia Retirement System (VRS) as leaving few options other than a tax raise to address the problem. Supervisor David Weiss said that he still had reservations about the tax hike but felt that it was important to demonstrate to the public that the Supervisors work together and will move forward together.
“I support the budget and keep my reservations,” Weiss said.
Supervisor Byrd also pointed to Richmond as the root of the hardship that is forcing localities to raise taxes.
“What’ happening in Richmond is irresponsible but we have to bear it locally,” Byrd said. “We are so lucky to have a fund balance to draw from but we have to protect it and can’t rob from it. The people of the County want us to be good money managers with their dollars.”
Given that no additional budget surprises happen in the meantime, the Supervisors plan to meet on April 30th at 6:30pm to approve the County’s FY13 budget.