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Their vote effectively sets an upper limit on how far taxes might rise.
Monday, March 11, 2013
CHRISTIANSBURG — Montgomery County residents are most likely looking at a tax increase of no more than 2 cents on the real estate and 10 cents on the personal property tax rates.
The board of supervisors voted 4-2 Monday to advertise the potential rate increases in public notices about the county’s budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year. When the supervisors adopt a budget, they can set a tax rate lower than what they have advertised. But to go higher, they have to re-advertise the rate and hold an additional public hearing, which county officials have said would delay getting tax tickets out on time. With that time frame in the background, Monday’s vote effectively sets a cap on how far taxes might rise.
County officials plan to continue working on the budget and to hold a public hearing on March 26, then adopt a finished spending plan on April 15.
If eventually adopted, the suggested increases would move Montgomery County’s real estate rate to 89 cents per $100 value and personal property rate to $2.55 per $100 value.
“I don’t think this is aggressive enough,” Supervisor Matt Gabriele said of advertising the suggested tax rate jumps. With supervisors still wading through the details of the budget, the possibility of a larger increase should be kept on the table, Gabriele argued. “We are potentially limiting ourselves to too low a tax rate,” he said.
Supervisor Chris Tuck also voted against advertising the tax rate, though from a position opposite Gabriele’s. Tuck said he opposed a tax jump after the increase the county saw last year, especially because the county is seeing increased tax revenues from growth.
Last year, Montgomery County raised its real estate tax rate from 75 cents to 87 cents per $100 value, a larger increase than any in years. Most of the new revenue went toward debt from the construction of two new high schools and renovation of a middle school.
Four residents who spoke during the public address section of Monday’s meeting all urged supervisors to rein in spending.
Sharon Brockman of Christiansburg told supervisors, “I think it takes quite a bit of hubris on your part to be suggesting another tax increase.”
Roger Averhart of Blacksburg said officials should take “not a scalpel but an ax or a hatchet” to the budget.
Erma Cox of Riner said that blue-collar families are hurting and suggested the county “reduce, or at least maintain the status quo” with spending.
Jack Selcovitz of Pilot waved a dollar bill as he said last year’s tax increase had left residents with less to spend or give to charity, and damaged the local economy.
“This should come as no surprise to anyone who understands basic math. … Every time you take a dollar from a taxpayer, you take a piece of their freedom away,” Selcovitz said.
Supervisors Chairman Jim Politis was absent Monday because of a family medical emergency.
Advertising a 2-cent increase in the real estate and 10-cent bump in the personal property tax rates mirrors a recommendation from County Administrator Craig Meadows, who structured a $167.9 million spending plan around the higher rates. Meadows’ budget would be 3 percent higher than the present budget. New tax rates would take effect with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Supervisors said Meadows’ proposal does more than past budgets to anticipate coming capital needs. “We’re a growing county and we have growing needs,” Supervisor Mary Biggs said.
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