Fri11282014

Last updateMon, 27 Nov 2017 12am

   201411metrocastweb

Real estate tax increase inevitable for Colonial Beach residents

A lot of numbers have been given out by both Council and School officials during the 20-plus hours spent on the budget. School officials quote the difference between what they are asking for and what they received last year. Town officials quote the difference between what the State requires the Town to pay the School and what the School is asking for. Both figures are very different and serve the purpose of the ones quoting them.

The council has been talking about dollars to fund the school, to pay off a bond, for repairs, for operating costs, etc., all while using accounting terms. All this can be quite confusing to the average person.

Tensions have been high during meetings at times, but the pressure is on for the Ccouncil to fund the School and the Town at a level the majority of citizens want without raising taxes, a feat that seems unattainable this year.

Suggestions from council members have included converting restrooms to pay toilets, eliminating July 4 fireworks, selling off town-owned properties and eliminating funding from the Town for the Jet Ski Races and other events.

Making sense of it all:
Town Staff brought at balanced budget to the council in April with projected revenues and expenses at $6,410,651; not including the utility fund or capital improvement projects. The current balance does not allow for fully funding the school system’s draft budget.

Capital improvement is any construction for town government or operational purposes. New buildings, new equipment, and water and sewer pipe replacements are some of the examples of capital improvements.

During the last few weeks, so many proposed changes have occurred in such a short time, that staff has been unable to provide the press with a working draft budget that is up to date. Nothing has been voted on by council, so the budget is still preliminary. The Town hopes to have come to some agreement by May 7 in order to advertise their budget numbers, as well as potential tax rate increases. The council left budget talks on Monday, April 28, with the following intentions:

Reinstating the town’s boat tax at $1.39 per hundred dollars of value

Raising sewer usage rates by $25.00 per quarter

Raising water connection fees by $1,000

Raising real estate tax by $0.23 per hundred dollars of value

Colonial Beach Schools is currently asking for money to relocate the elementary students, perform repairs to the high school on First St. and for their operating budget. The Council has decided and passed a resolution to handle the first two items by taking out a $1.2 million bond. The Town will also add to that figure in the bond to take care of some town repairs and capital improvements. The Town’s exact figures have not been fully identified.

Council is confident that with the amount of real estate in Colonial Beach, every penny of real estate tax equates to roughly $45,000 in revenue for the Town. If the council takes out a $2 million bond to cover the school’s moving expenses, high school repairs and the town’s needs, the estimated payments on the bond will run the Town about $160,000 per year to pay off. Council attributes $0.03 of the proposed real estate tax increase to that bond payment.  

The other $0.20 is attributed to the council needing the funding to fully fund what the School is asking for in their operational budget. The School is asking the Town give them $2,530,704. Based on State mandated calculation, the Town is only obligated to give the School $1,532,321. This is a difference of $998.383.

According to calculations, an additional $0.20-increase in real estate tax rates will generate $900,000 in additional revenue.

Council must both advertise tax increases and hold public hearings in order to raise taxes. However, the bottom line is that the Council has the last vote on the issue. Many members have voiced their opinions and are anxious for the public to give their input on all proposed increases.

Some members have stated, but only preliminarily, that they might agree to a real estate tax increase of $0.09; others won’t say how far they are willing to go. All members, however, seem to be in agreement with raising the sewer usage rates, water connection fees and re-implementing the boat tax.

Adding to the confusion of school funding is the matter of the Virginia State budget, which still has not been passed. According to CB School Finance Director JD Martin, there are three versions; the house, senate and governor’s budgets. School officials are hoping for the governor’s budget because they believe it will be the most favorable to the school system. If the State does give the School more funding than the School’s budget projects, the Town’s burden will be less.

Residents within the town limits of Colonial Beach are also facing a smaller increase by Westmoreland County on their real estate taxes. Supervisor Larry Roberson has already warned the council that a $0.03-raise in real estate taxes is on the table for the County. Councilman Gary Seeber pointed out at the April 28 work session that a small portion of the County’s real estate taxes are collected by the town from Colonial Beach residents, to help fund the school system, as well. The figures on generated revenue from the proposed county increase have not yet been given.

Town residents are being urged by Council to watch for the advertised increases and attend the public hearings to have their voices heard.

—Linda Farneth

 

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