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King George sets tax rates; hearing on budget draws three comments

The King George Board of Supervisors heard from three speakers at last week’s public hearing on its proposed budget for next fiscal year, 2014-15, with no one speaking during the hearing on tax rates for the current calendar year. The hearings took place on April 15.

Following the two hearings, Supervisors unanimously voted to raise real estate and personal property taxes, as had been advertised. Tax bills are expected to be mailed as soon as they are prepared, with the first half-year taxes due in early June.

REAL ESTATE TAX RATE
The real estate tax rate was 53-cents per $100 valuation for real estate and mobile homes. Following last year’s real estate assessment, it was determined that an “equalized” tax rate would be 56-cents per $100 of assessed value. The county raised real estate and mobile home taxes an additional 3-cents from the equalized rate to 59-cents per $100 value.

PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX RATE
Personal property taxes were increased by 5-cents. The rate went from the previous $3.20 to $3.25 per $100 valuation. That tax had seen no increases for nearly a decade. Personal property tax applies to cars and trucks, but also includes motor homes, campers, utility trailers, boat trailers, golf carts, low speed vehicles, business equipment, business vehicles, boats, boat motors, dirt bikes, motorcycles, motorbikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and airplanes.

BUDGET HEARING
The three people who spoke during the hearing on the budget represented organizations. A fourth individual provided comments via an email that was distributed to Supervisors. Jim Lynch’s written comments for the record have to do with six items regarding the Parks & Recreation Department.

Linda Hamrick from the Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging gave information and statistics about the services it provides to older residents in King George, indicating how the funding from the county is utilized. She thanked the board for the county’s continued support.

Renee Parker and Warren Veazey both spoke representing the Citizens for Nonpartisan Good Government.
Veazey suggested increasing the contractual tipping free for the landfill and also claimed that the county Department of Community Development was “padding” its inspection visits to justify its staffing level. Veazey also suggested that the county transfer funding from Community Development, to instead create a position to bring tourism into the county. Currently, tourism is addressed by the director of economic development.
For her part, Parker termed the funding for the library as “excessive,” comparing it to the amount the county contributes to funding for the volunteer organization of King George Fire & Rescue, noting Smoot Library gets over $500,000, saying the volunteers get $100,000 less. She also said that funding for the Department of Social Services should be increased and criticized the county for providing cell phones for county employees.

Following public comment, Supervisor Dale Sisson responded to Parker, noting the county’s public safety budget is over $8,000,000, and the library’s is $509,000, adding that it was not a fair comparison to pit the library budget against fire and rescue volunteer funding, saying “It doesn’t tell the whole picture of what we spend on fire and rescue,” including the cost for paid staffing.

PROPOSED BUDGET
Supervisors set a special meeting on April 24 at 5 p.m. to adopt the proposed 2014-15 budget, set at $68,202,063, reflecting a 4-percent increase from the current year. No changes have been proposed, with the advertised budget expected to be approved as presented.

The county’s General Fund budget is proposed at $35,961,692, which is a 2-percent increase from the current fiscal year. The proposed School Operating budget is $37,225,761, which would be a 5-percent increase from current year. That does not include an additional amount of $1,290,785 proposed in Fund 252 for federal grants, and a School Cafeteria Fund budget proposed at $1,483,829.

The tax increases are essentially going toward the cost of fire and safety positions and related equipment and vehicle costs. The county’s proposed Public Safety budget would come to $8,033,870, reflecting an 11-percent increase from the current year.

Two full-time E-911 dispatch positions are in the proposed budget, along with two new sheriff’s deputy positions with related equipment, including two new patrol cars, along with full-year costs for two other deputy positions, funded mid-year during the current budget year for duties at the Courthouse. The tax increase would also pick up the full-year costs for six fire & rescue positions that were funded mid-year in the 2013-14 budget, beginning this past January 2014.

OTHER POSITIONS & RAISES
In addition, the proposed budget increase would fund the conversion of two part-time positions to full-time in general properties. It would also go toward a part-time paralegal position for the county attorney’s office.
The proposal would provide 1-percent average raises under the pay-for-performance policy, beginning at mid-year, on Jan. 1, 2015. The increase is expected to cost about $45,000 on the county side. The county is also requesting the School Board to likewise grant 1-percent raises at mid-year, estimated to cost $106,000.

Phyllis Cook

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