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Sunday, April 28, 2013
Another year, another tax increase in Montgomery County. Last week, four of my fellow supervisors decided to raise taxes yet again, despite growth in tax revenues of $2.8 million and the promise of hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional state and federal monies. They voted to increase taxes despite the fact that over a seven-year period, our real estate tax rate will have increased 40 percent. It is now more than double that of Wythe County, which has the lowest tax rate in the New River Valley, at 44 cents.
The increase of two cents on real estate tax rates and 10 cents on personal property will generate $1.4 million and $500,000 respectively for a total of $1.9 million more taken from our residents.
Some of the spending increases in this year's budget include: $1.4 million for school capital needs, $500,000 in salary increases for non-school employees, three new positions and reopening another position. Even without the tax increase, the school board would have received an extra $2.33 million over last year.
Some who supported the tax increase maintained that additional funding is necessary for the school board, which had presented a "needs-based" budget, requesting an additional $4.2 million. After its budget request to supervisors, the board decided to switch to block scheduling in middle schools, which would have saved $1.2 million. On April 15, the school board received $2.33 million in local tax dollars and will receive more than $700,000 in federal and state funds, a portion of the latter tied to a 2 percent raise for teachers. Adding those numbers, the total equals $4.2 million, the amount originally requested by the school board. But within 24 hours of receiving funds from the tax increase, the board requested $575,000 in extra funding. These figures don't include $400,000 given to schools earlier this year.
All this despite the fact that if one compares total amounts spent on schools, including debt service, Montgomery spends more than $900 more per student than Roanoke County; nearly $1,000 more than Pulaski County; $1,100 more than Radford; and $1,800 more than Giles and Wythe counties.
These tax increases have hit our constituents hard. With the latest increase, many mortgage escrow accounts are no longer sufficient to pay taxes and insurance. A homeowner whose property is valued at $200,000 has seen his tax obligation increase by $520 over seven years.
Earlier this year, the county, through the foresight of our county administrator and supervisors, made the decision to move toward self-insured health insurance, a move that saved the county $300,000. Yet those savings were immediately spent, instead of being used to offset a tax increase.
Without a tax increase, supervisors would have had to make some difficult choices, evaluating whether money could be put aside for future school capital needs, whether new positions would have to wait another year, and whether increases in compensation to non-school county employees could be fully funded. Making difficult choices is part of the job of representing our county and being responsible stewards of tax dollars. This year, supervisors had that opportunity. But here in Montgomery County, it is just another year and another tax increase.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday