Tue09022014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Colonial Beach hit hard with proposed tax hikes

Westmoreland County Supervisor Larry Roberson informed the CB Town Council that the county supervisors would meet on Monday. He said that like everyone else, the county’s planning to raise taxes. “The county is looking at a $0.04 per $100 increase” (in real estate taxes).

Roberson said the county will hold their public hearing on the matter but will drag it out until the last possible moment. The county, like the town, has advertised high at $0.04; however, they can come down from that.

The county is waiting for the state to release their budget, which could have an impact on the amount of increase the county charges.

Roberson explained that the Northern Neck (NN) is “at the end of the line” for federal and state funding. He said this poses a problem to NN residents because when federal and state spending is cut, the area is left with mandated programs that must be funded by the localities; that raises citizens’ taxes.

Roberson said that the county is looking at mandates to raise funding to Social Services and the Juvenile Detention Center, just to name two.

CB Councilwoman Linda Brubaker asked Roberson if the Northern Neck Regional Jail is funded by the county or only by money received from federal funding. Roberson explained that because the jail has many leftover beds, the feds do put prisoners there, which opens up funding for the jail. Roberson did confirm that counties contribute, but most of the funding comes from these federal prisoners, and all that money must stay at the jail and cannot be distributed to the counties that contribute.

The Town of Colonial Beach has already advertised and has set a public hearing to raise real estate taxes, water and sewer fees and to reinstate the boat tax.

The town is advertising:
Reinstating the town’s boat tax by increasing it from $0.01 to $1.39 per $100 in 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 $100 of value.

Currently, residents of Colonial Beach pay $0.58 per $100 of value.

During the May 8 council meeting, Colonial Beach resident and wife of Councilman Jim Chiarello, Glenda Chiarello, spoke to council calculating the tax on what she believes to be the average value of homes in Colonial Beach. Mrs. Chiarello told the council that they need to let people know just what $0.23 means in dollars per year. Originally, council discussed a $0.25 real estate tax increase, but currently, they are advertising $0.23.

“The proposed $0.25  increase equates to a 43% increase.” Mrs. Chiarello said she researched on the Internet to find that the average home assessment in Colonial Beach is about $250,000. Using that figure, she calculates about a $625 per year increase in real estate tax, if the full increase is implemented.

Mrs. Chiarello said she thinks the council needs to be more clear on how they announce the tax increase and explain how it equates to the amount of taxes citizens will pay, before the public hearing,  if the proposed increase is implemented.

Mrs. Chiarello pointed out that although some senior citizens can receive a discount, they must be below the poverty level. She said there are a lot of senior citizens on fixed incomes that don’t fall under the poverty line but will have to bear the burden of the increased real estate taxes, which Mrs. Chiarello believes will be personally and economically devastating.

Mrs. Chiarello said she does not envy the council’s job, but feels there is going to be a little bit of compromise. “The town’s needs are going to have to give a little; the school’s needs are going to have to give considerably; and the citizens are going to have to give. I know there is going to have to be a tax increase, but add $0.04 to what you are already talking about, and do the math and think about what people can handle. There’s just so much we can handle.”

The council has justified their proposed tax in the following manner:

The school system 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.

The 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’s need to fully fund what the school is asking for in their operational budget. The school is asking the town to 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 will generate $900,000 in additional revenue.

With both the town and county proposing increases to real estate, citizens of Colonial Beach need to speak out and voice their opinions at the public hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, May 21, at 6 p.m. at the town meeting room, located next to the library on Washington Ave.

—Linda Farneth

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