Tax Hike Receives Mixed Support at Public Hearing

A public hearing on Wednesday night for Clarke County’s proposed $38M spending budget saw a sizeable turnout, however, most of the people in attendance were school and law enforcement personnel rather than members of the public at large. Three citizens spoke in favor of the budget’s proposed two-cent property tax hike while Berryville resident George Archibald offered the lone dissenting voice on the increase.

Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge, Clarke County’s budget chief, kick-off the meeting with a recap of the budget challenges that the County face along and offered a high-level explanation of specific financial hurdles that the budget addresses.

“We knew last year that it was going to a difficult budget year going in,” Judge explained.

Judge cited flat revenue growth, increased Virginia Retirement System rates, expiration of Federal stimulus funds, increased county employee health insurance rates as well as actions by the Virginia Assembly as the source of the local budget squeeze.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia continued in its devolution of support for services at the local level,” Judge said.

One bright spot in the otherwise dismal budget outlook, Judge said, was increased support for Clarke County from the Commonwealth’s composite index, the measure used to allocate state educational funding levels to localities.

“Changes in the composite index accrued to our benefit,” Judge said. “That $530K increase offset the loss of Federal stimulus for the school division.”

Judge said that a combined two-cent tax increase, transfer of $860K from the County’s fund balance along with elimination of four County government positions – a maintenance position, a real estate assessor position, a position in the Treasurer’s department and a planning department position – were necessary to bridge a $607K net pay-as-you-go budget deficit.

Several citizens said that they supported the tax increase.

Boyce resident Tony Parrott said that while “nobody cheers for a tax increase,” he was willing to accept what he estimated to be a $7 monthly tax increase expense in order to support a raise for the County’s law enforcement and teaching staff.

Planning Commissioner Richard Thuss (Buckmarsh) used his allotted speaking time to inquire about the size of the VRS funding shortfall that is ultimately expected to be shouldered by localities. After a knowledgeable audience member said the projected VRS shortfall amount was potentially a whooping $24B, Thuss said that he supported a measured tax increase provided that it pre-empts a larger unexpected tax increase later.

“I support the tax increase because I think that we need to hold money aside for this future liability,” Thuss said. “We need to hold money in abeyance against a future big financial surprise so that we don’t have to have a twenty-cent increase when we don’t’ expect it.”

Clarke County Education Association president Andy Kiser thanked the Supervisors for supporting a salary increase for teachers.

Offering the lone opposing view to the tax rate hike, Berryville resident George Archibald submitted a written statement challenging the financial logic behind the tax increase. Archibald asked how the Supervisors could suggest a tax increase given the County’s excessive funding reserves and its history of not tapping into the “rainy day” reserve.

“I am absolutely convinced that this proposed tax rate increase is not necessary and irresponsible,” Archibald told the Supervisors. “This County has $2.9M of liquidity – including $737K in stabilization funds that haven’t been used and $416K in undesignated funds. You’ve also have had carryovers of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for many years.”

Archibald said that the amount liquidity funding in the County’s coffers far surpasses any funding increase that would be gained from a tax increase.

“I beg you to reconsider the tax increase,” Archibald concluded.

Whether any of the Supervisors will be swayed by Archibald’s plea to reconsider the tax increase will not be known until the Board meets again on April 18th at 6:30pm to finalize the FY13 budget.

Supervisors David Weiss (Buckmarsh) and Barbara Byrd (Russell) have expressed reservations in previous meetings about a tax increase.

At last night’s meeting Supervisor Bev McKay (White Post) offered his position on the issue.

“I’m having a very hard time believing that this is the right time for us to be raising taxes on people,” McKay said.

 

Comments

  1. Mr. McKay, when is it ever “the right time to raise taxes on people”? Honestly…nobody relishes paying taxes, whether they pay for government services or farm subsidies or whatever.

    However, they are necessary to maintain a high level of quality in the services we receive. As our neighbor to the west is about to find out, when you don’t invest in law enforcement, or education, or infrastruture (like better and mroe efficient computer software), that comes back to bite you in the rear. You can continue to punt providing the funds that are necessary…but eventually you have to pay the bill when it comes due. All of the departments have tightened their belts for 4 years. Make the right call and support this budget with the increase advertised.

  2. Kenny Gall says:

    I’m glad to hear the Teachers and Deputies were at the meeting…. The BOS need to see who their going to loose as a result of their decisions…

    • virginiacop says:

      You make me laugh out loud. Not one of them is going to quit if they don’t get a raise, and if they do they will be replaced without difficulty.

      • Kenny Gall says:

        Deputy McDonald resigned from the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office yesterday… You make me laugh with a name like virginiacop you wouldn’t support police better than you do…

  3. I would feel much better if there were a well publicized town meeting to discuss this. Pulling this stunt upsets the hell out of me and makes me want to tell them to go pound sand. People are not getting raises in the private sector or if they are they are not what they used to be. I cant go out and pack a meeting to get a raise.

    In fact, go pound sand. Deal with it. I have to, as I work in the dreaded private sector, and no, the government is not my customer, or my customers’ main customer.

  4. My 2 Cents says:

    Remember that Dave when you need a EMT of Police Officer. You go pound sand now

    • virginiacop says:

      So the police and emts are only going to respond if they get a raise? Are the teachers only going to teach if they get a raise also?

      • Kenny Gall says:

        The police and emt’s are going to respond the same as they always have.. The difference is they are going to respond to employment opportunities in other jurisdictions on their days off.

        2 Deputies have left in the last 10 weeks, it is only just the beginning of a trend that will move through the Sheriff’s Office and the schools as the employee’s slow filter out to higher paying jobs.

  5. My 2 Cents says:

    Why yes Va Cop. You hit the nail on the head! Shaking my head….. You people crack me up…. Is 7 to 10 bucks a month really gonna break you?

  6. Home owner says:

    The BOS once again is taking the easy way out, the cowards way out by expecting home owners to foot the bill for their shortcomings in attracting new businesses to the county. The BOS needs to concentrate on other ways to increase their revenue other than bleeding the residents (home owners) dry. I too work in the private sector and I have not seen a raise in nearly 5 years yet the cost of everything has gone up including taxes. Employers are not even giving cost of living increases. I get the feeling the BOS has lost touch with the reality of the working man/woman that is struggling to make ends meet. Everyone I talk to has been making cutbacks in household expenditures as so have I. Seniors have even had to make a choice on what medication they can afford and not afford. Its time you (BOS) buckle down and do what’s right for your residents and to take your hands out of our pockets. You have already assessed my home FAR AND ABOVE the real value. The value of my home is what I can sell it for not what you THINK it should be. There is no way I could ever sell my home for what the county has assessed it to be and now you want me to pay even more taxes on an already over inflated assessment?
    It’s time for the citizens of this county to say enough is enough.

    • “…The BOS needs to concentrate on other ways to increase their revenue other than bleeding the residents (home owners) dry. …”

      “…I get the feeling the BOS has lost touch with the reality of the working man/woman that is struggling to make ends meet….”

      “…Its time you (BOS) buckle down and do what’s right for your residents and to take your hands out of our pockets….”

      Then quit voting them in.

  7. luvb-ville says:

    I also spoke at the hearing Wednesday and said I agreed with Tony Parrott’s comments. I don’t want my taxes going up. However public employees deserve a raise. I can accept a small increase in my taxes if it means helping our struggling public employees. Times are tough for everyone. Let’s help our public employees who are constantly being told do more with less by giving them their 2% increase.

  8. Another View says:

    Public employees do not deserve a raise. No one “deserves” a raise. Raises are earned, and I fail to see how in these dire economic times, any public employee has earned a raise when the people who are forced to fund the raises are not receiving raises themselves.

    (Redacted)!

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Government workers don’t get pay increases the same as private sector. In the private sector they call it “merit increase” and it is usually tied to company and personal performance.
      When I was in the military you could get a raise if you made rank (if there were openings) and when congress seen fit to give you a cost of living increase. If you were paying our local government employees based on “merit” you may be paying some of them more.

      As for your crying poor mouth ALL the time and blaming the economy I believe Virginia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation (8th @ 5.7%). So I’m sure we have people in Clarke doing better than ok. So let’s treat the people who server Clark Co with a little more respect.

      • Another View says:

        Are you suggesting that government employees’ pay should NOT be based upon merit? Are you suggesting that government employees be rewarded just for seniority? If so, you are highlighting the very problem with government employees–a sense of entitlement to other people’s money, just for existing.

        • Tony Parrott says:

          I’m not suggesting anything I’m simply telling you how they get paid. But I’m not sure how a private sector system would work in a government environment. As I’m sure you know government doesn’t produce a product. Private sector always has a “company performance” part to any merit increase. You don’t get paid unless the company is making money. Government doesn’t make money the take it to cover obligations. I understand some of those obligations don’t mean a hill of beans to a lot of people. But for me security and education matter and I’m willing to pay for it whether it is local security of national security. To be safe today we pay the military and police officers. To be safe tomorrow we educate our young people so they can protect our way of life as Americans.
          Food for thought: retired military don’t get a cost of living increase unless passed by congress. That increase is based on their service and they get it “just for existing”.

          • Another View says:

            As someone who hires young people, I can assure you that the government schools are doing a poor job of educating students. If these are the people who are going to “protect our way of life as Americans”, we are all in deep trouble.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            I feel my kids are getting a good education and we are involved parents.

            But if you feel schools are doing a bad job at educating our young people then maybe we should do a better job at investing in the people, processes and tools that make it happen.

          • Another View says:

            It’s not what I “feel”, it is what I know. Which is why I send my children to private school. So I pay twice. And the problem is not with a lack of money, it is with the government institutions themselves. No amount of money can fix what is wrong with public education.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            Well I certainly have a “Better View” of Another View now. I wouldn’t say it’s what you know; it’s more what you experienced. I have hired (in the past) my fair amount of engineers and none of them were private school educated; mostly products of Fairfax Co.
            With that said you are fortunate you can send your kids to private school and I’m sure you get your money’s worth. Not sure I would send my kids even if I could. My personal feeling is you miss out on some of the cultural differences and economic diversities that you would experience in public education.

            We probably could find common ground on some of the issues with public education but most of your resentment is pointed strictly at the locality not at public education on the whole. But I understand you pay a lot of money for your children’s education and you pay a small amount through taxes to help educate the other 2000+ kids in Clarke Co. public schools. For that I say Thank You.

          • Another View says:

            I have absolutely no resentment toward the local [Clarke Co.] schools. My problem is with public education generally. Practically it does not work. Philosophically, I do not wish for the government to teach my children anything. Or yours. I think that parents could make better education decisions for their children than any government entity, and that taxes should be lowered to permit parents of all income levels to make those choices, with their own money. Right now, government schools maintain a virtual monopoly, with a forced funding stream and mandatory attendance. If a private entity tried that, it would be considered a crime.

          • And back when it was “private entities” or other unregulated agencies or groups (or individuals) running the schools, certain members of society were not allowed in (minorities, the physically or mentally handicapped, etc.). Many of today’s private schools still remain very selective about who gets in. Also…are you suggesting that compulsory attendance is a bad thing?

            I’m finally glad to see you actually write something (reasonably) positive about the local schools. Your “angry libertarian” rants generally seemed to suggest otherwise.

  9. I believe all county employees will get a pay increase not just Teachers and Sheriff’s Dept . This meeting was well advertised and discussed here in CDN. About 30-35 people were there not counting the BOS. Most were county employees. The Sheriff’s office, Teachers, School Board members, Planning Commissioner’s, Commissioner of Revenue and 3 or 4 of the general public. All public meetings can be found of Clarke’s web site if the public is interested enough they will attend. Don’t wait for someone else to speak for you attend the meetings yourself.

    • Maybe people are too busy working 2nd jobs in order to pay their bills and the increase in gas to be able to attend these meetings. Maybe people realize their “voices” don’t matter becausepoliticians do what they want anyway. Vote them out of office, nice thought, but who would run against them.

  10. dontaskme says:

    how about raising the land use tax rate two cents also (not sure if the proposed 2 cent tax hike includes land use or not, but if it does not, then it should).

  11. BinThere says:

    I like the across the board 2% tax rate increase suggested by dontaskme. It should cover all taxable property including farm land. Bring in some real money to the county.

  12. I also notice that the only mention of how much the tax increase refers to a citizens’ estimate, not a plain statement made by the writer? Isn;t that pertinent to the issue? I need Tony Parrot to estimate what HIS increase is?

    And that’s not even the point. Meeting packing is not democratic at all..

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Dave, I think I did. I estimate my taxes will increase to be about $7 a month. That is based on a $.02 per $100 assess value. Maybe the CDN can put together a chart to show people what exactly this increase would mean to them; yearly/monthly.

      As for the meeting I actually have seen a lot more people turn out in years past, especially when a tax increase is on the agenda. The audience certainly wasn’t packed. 5-6 deputies and maybe 2-3 teachers.

  13. Clarke County Annie says:

    Not looking forward to a tax increase however I would rather have a manageable one now than a shock rate later.

    A minimal tax increase will cause further adjustment to household budgets, just as the recent increase cost of gas has and gas related items – groceries, heating and cooking fuel, etc.

    If taxes are raised I do not want any other spending except to safety and education. Really don’t want to see increases in any other budget line item, especially conservation easement. In researching taxes paid on property now “saved” the loss to real estate tax paid is huge. I get the whole retiring DUR’s and residential development. But to reduce the whole value of the property to paying only hundreds of dollars instead of the thousands it was paying annually? Don’t think there is a grant (still being taxpayers funds) to pay the difference of this lost county revenue. By the way Alison, could you see to the update of this part of the county website.

    Business License…$30 a year? Quadruple that as it would not be a great hardship to any business and it would at least give the county some funds overtop the time it takes to handle the paperwork and mailing the typing paper license.

    Did you know we even pay into Clarke’s “General Fund” from our electric bill?

    When the next assessment of Clarke properties is completed I fear we all will be addressing the tax issue again.

  14. Thanks Tony, It isn;t much of a tax rate increase at all, and even if were 5 times, it would be acceptable to me. People need rate increases.
    My issue is meeting packing.

    • And Tony, there are no guarantees to getting merit increases at all, why should it be any different?

    • Another View says:

      The taxpayer needs a raise too. But the taxpayer cannot use the force of law to obtain one. Government employees should not be living better than, and at the expense of, the taxpayer.

      • Keep in mind that many of these government employees also are CC taxpayers, so would be affected by any sort of increase. That said…government employees cannot expect increases by charging more per hour, or selling another piece of jewelry, or using farm subsidies to help prop up a dairy operation, or sell more cookies or quarts of oil or whatever. I agree with one of the speakers at the public hearing – the needs for law enforcement or education don’t go away. Special education needs have legally-mandated costs associated with meeting the needs of those students; I know, I have a nephew with special needs and accommodations in place at his school to meet those needs.

        • Another View says:

          Government employees should have no expectation of a pay increase. Currently government employees have more job security, better pay, more regular hours and better retirement benefits than most private sector employees. But if they are truly unhappy, government employees are always welcome to seek new employment in the private sector.

          • Kenny Gall says:

            That is a good point you bring up , except!…. How about this? I worked for Clarke County, and wanted to get raises, better benefits and more opportunity for advancement and I went to the Federal Government. Still government, but with opportunity, money and benefits… So the private sector is an option but I think you will find most Deputies at least will be seeking opportunity in other government agencies.

            The Deputy that just resigned 2 days ago left the Sheriff’s Office for another Government agency.. Clarke County is not willing to compete in the job market. The days that Deputies will stay for 20 or 30 years in Clarke County like Jeff Levi, Tom Jones, Jim Coumes, Brian Rosenbury and Gary Lichliter are gone… Clarke will have to now get used to dealing with new Deputies on a regular basis as Loudoun Co. and others continue to appropriate from the lower paid jurisdictions.

            This next statement will be unpopular but I would submit that a 2% pay raise isn’t enough to make a difference to the lives of the Deputies I know.. at around 36k or 38k a year were only talking about 7 or 8 hundred bucks a year… I left Clarke County for a 22% raise…

            The deputy that just resigned is getting a 16% raise over his Clarke salary and his health insurance is going to go from $650.00 per month to $300.00 per month for significantly better insurance. This is a net raise if over $800.00 per month for this young man.. 2% is a little over $700.00 per year for this fella, now if it were you would you take the $700.00 a year or the $800.00 per month?!

            Now as far as teachers I don’t know enough about them to talk about their options, but i do know that teachers and cops get paid allot more elsewhere and teachers have good educations them selves and other government entities like the Fed will hire those intelligent well educated people in a second with some great salaries..

            I still go back to quit taxing the people and start taxing the businesses the right way for their licenses and such…

  15. When someone leaves a job, and gets a raise in excess of 15% or so, just as a number, it means they were grossly underpaid. Now everything people say about jobs, etc is true. You get wha you pay for. We have a choic in CC. Keep it rural, or let it grow. I can see some growth for business, Shopping, pharmacies, restaurants, but the only way to grow the tax base is to get either more people or industries.

    The current tax base, whatever its size can only afford so much, whatever that number is. I do not know. If they need me to pay another 350/year OK do it.

    My only complaint was, this: I didn’t know about the meeting, but someone made sure the meeting was packed..

    • Another View says:

      If someone gets a 15% raise at another government job, it could also mean that the better paying government is wasting money. Lots of local governments across the country are having to deal with the unrealistic pay and benefits that they have been providing for years.

      Time to face the facts; the taxpayer gravy train is over. Taxpayers–not government–need more money.

      • Kenny Gall says:

        So are you saying that Clarke County doesn’t waste money? Or that it is a waste of money to retain your people?.. It is more costly to play the revolving door game with employees then to retain the people you currently have…

  16. Another View says:

    What I am saying is that Clarke County wastes money, and that now is NOT the time to either raise taxes or give government employees a raise.

    Indeed, now is the time to cut spending, cut taxes, and develop a plan to broaden the tax base. The last point will require changes in the County demographics.

    • That will never happen. The BOS will just try to figure out “How to invigorate” Downtown Berryville. We are stuck with what we got. If you want it rural, we are going to have to pay for it ourselves, or not have very good services.