Tue09162014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Solid foundations, more taxation; Council gives boaters the slip free

At the Colonial Beach public hearings on tax increases and utility hikes, the Town Council got an ear full. Residents spoke out on raising real estate taxes, marina and boat owners spoke out against reinstating the boat tax, and a few brave citizens spoke in support of raising taxes and fees, getting some negative reactions by the majority of the crowd.


On the table was a proposed real estate tax increase of $0.23 per $100 of value, 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 per quarter and raising water connection fees by $1,000.

After the public hearings and some back and forth negotiations by members, the council played it safe, voting to raise real estate taxes by $0.04 and sewer usage fees $25 per quarter for residents whose homes sit on solid foundations. The council decided to forgo the idea of raising boat taxes for those who can pull anchor and sail away, as well as avoiding a raise in water connection fees for new construction.

Council vote projects the image that The Town has little to offer, other than tax incentives. However, appointed Councilman Pete Bone feels the town needs, and is worth, promoting to tourists. Bone took a considerable amount of time trying to convince the council to work in the future to promote the town to raise revenues, rather than raising citizens’ taxes.

Bone said, “This previous council has done nothing to promote the town. Taking a tax increase is the easy way; to market the town, to build the revenue of the town, takes work.”

 

REAL ESTATE
The majority of the speakers opposed a real estate tax increase at all. Some were in favor of a few pennies, and Marion Miller was willing to take the increase and even asked others to come forward in support of the increase.

Miller said, “I am proud to be a resident of Colonial Beach; I am here because I chose to be here.” Miller said she supports whatever tax increase is necessary to fund both the town and the school system. Miller urged the council to be tough, “I urge you, my representatives, to be tough, to be like a tough parent and do what is necessary.” Miller said she would make the sacrifices needed to pay the taxes, and she urged others to come forward in favor of the increase, as well.

Ed Blunt felt that $0.23 is a huge increase, probably one that couldn’t be absorbed by most people in this town. However, he said that there has to be some increase. Blunt said the town needs to improve its infrastructure and predicts there will be more police, EMS and fire calls. Blunt recommended breaking the increase into smaller manageable pieces, giving people time to adjust over a 3- to 5-year period. “Most important, you need to plan way ahead. You can’t just arbitrarily throw a number out like $0.23, put shock and fear into everybody and get everybody in a state of panic, when you know you’re not going to do $0.23.”  
More commonly, the speakers insisted the town is mostly populated with retired citizens, surviving on fixed incomes.

Gene Conaty stated that like herself, there are many citizens in the town on fixed incomes. “I think you need to look more closely at line items; the old saying ‘look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’ is very true. I really think you need to look at where the school is spending their money and where you are spending yours.”

Peggy Tucker, a town resident of 33 years, said she is not in favor of an increase in real estate taxes, “It would be a hardship for the elderly in general, and me in particular.”

A few residents felt that the real estate tax increase was needed but also had a few bits of advice for the council:

Jay Jarvis said, “I support a modest increase in property tax IF it will support the school system. Like many citizens in town, I am on a fixed income.” Jarvis said he is concerned with maintenance in both the school and town budgets, does not support a boat tax increase or charging tuition to out of town students. Jarvis said the problem has been building over 10 to 20 years and charged the council with doing nothing about the situation.

Kyle Schick, owner of the CB Yacht Center, said, “I do support a modest tax increase; if we’re going to drive a top of the line automobile, we need to pay for it.” However, he opposed reinstating the boat tax.

One citizen was staunchly against raising real estate taxes and questioned the council on why they want to raise taxes on properties that no longer assessed at their original values.

Barbara Hathaway said she is against raising all taxes. Hathaway said that raising taxes isn’t the only way to bring in revenue; she suggested bringing in more businesses and promoting the town.

“Right after I heard about this shocking tax, I got my property value statement.” Hathaway said her property did not assess for what it did last year. Hathaway said she was shocked that the council wants to raise taxes on her real estate that isn’t even assessing for what she bought it for.

BOAT TAX
Marina owners Ed Blunt, Kyle Schick, Bill Bowman and Rusty Curley showed up to state their cases against reinstating the boat tax. The argument was the same; boat owners spend money in the town and will pull out if they are taxed.

Ronald White, who did not identify if he was a boat owner or not, said he is generally against tax but feels it is only fair to charge for boats. “I’m in favor of a boat tax; if you have to pay tax on a car, which is a necessity, you should pay for your boat.”

About four boat owners spoke against the boat tax, but one in particular seemed to catch the council’s attention with his comments. Leonard Farneth said, “I’m a boat owner and a boat dweller in this town, and I have heard 138%. I hate to correct you guys, and if a math teacher wants to get on me about this, I’ve done the math; today it’s 13,800%, is what it is. That’s appalling. By the way, I own a car here, I have my boat registered here, I spend my money here, but there is six ropes keeping me from moving where I’m at,” Farneth threatened to move if the boat tax was reinstated.

Sewer increase and water connection fees
Not many notable comments were made, other than Steve Cirbee, who continues to argue that the town is not following the law in deciding how much to increase the water connection fees. The council voted not to raise the water connection fees but did raise the sewer usage fees by $25 per quarter for residents.


—Linda Farneth

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