Salem is considering beefing up its property taxes, as well as its trash collection fee, in order to pay for the long-awaited renovation of Salem High School and other mounting capital needs.
The three-part proposal calls for moving the real estate tax rate to $1.20 per $100 of assessed value, an uptick of 2 cents, and setting the personal property tax rate at $3.40 per $100 of assessed value for a rise of 15 cents.
The toter fee would also increase from $7 to $10 per month. That better reflects the actual cost of trash collection, officials said, and would free up money in the general fund to support the infrastructure work.
This package of budget proposals was developed Monday during a Salem City Council work session and will be put to a public hearing before returning for a vote. To meet public notice requirements, the earliest the hearing would be expected is May 28.
The tax proposal is being offered as the city works to deliver on a plan to renovate its 4-decade-old high school.
That project, which officials hope to start in 2020, is expected to require about $32 million in borrowing under current plans.
The mix of ideas advancing now would cover the annual payments on that debt. The installments, during their peak years, are expected to cost the city a little more than $1 million.
Over time, as the annual payments shrink, the money also could be used to support borrowing for other major capital projects such as work on the Moyer Sports Complex and the Salem Civic Center.
The lineup of future projects is still under discussion, but officials said the community faces a growing list of deferred facility and infrastructure needs.
While anticipating some criticism of the proposal, city council members said they hoped people would understand that they were trying to craft a balanced, sustainable solution that would directly benefit some of the community’s highest priorities.
Councilman John Saunders said appeals for the high school renovation are one of the most frequent comments he hears.
“Every time I turn around, someone asks me, when are you going to do the school, when are you going to do the school?” he said.
Mayor Randy Foley said it was time for the city to take action or risk losing further ground.
“We’ve just got to rip off the Band-Aid,” he said.
The combination of proposals strives to avoid busting the bank for households, others added.
For a home valued at $200,000, the tax rate proposal translates to an additional bill of $40 per year.
For a car valued at $30,000, it would mean an additional $45.
Salem’s ranking against other cities on taxes and fees wouldn’t change, according to a survey of Virginia municipalities.