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Spotsy budget rising despite lower home values

February 15, 2012 12:10 am

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

Real-estate taxes could increase for about 56 percent of Spotsylvania County homeowners, based on the county administrator's proposed 2012-13 budget presented Tuesday night.

The rest of the county's homeowners would see no change or a decrease in those taxes.

But that's only if the county Board of Supervisors--the majority of whom campaigned on lower taxes last year--agree to setting an equalized real-estate tax rate of 90 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Supervisor Paul Trampe, who took office last month, said he would like to approve a tax rate below the equalized rate. Other supervisors didn't comment on the issue during the meeting.

County Administrator Doug Barnes' $450.6 million spending plan recommends the equalized rate, which is 4 cents more than the current rate of 86 cents.

The increase is necessary to generate 1 percent more revenue for the county than it received in 2011-12. This year's countywide reassessment dropped overall home values by about 2 percent. Commercial values have declined by about 9 percent since 2010.

The assessed values of 66 percent of homes decreased; 25 percent increased; and 9 percent stayed the same.

State law requires the county to advertise the equalized tax rate after properties are assessed. That rate would generate $105.1 million for Spotsylvania, or $1.5 million more than the county estimates it will collect for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Each penny on the tax rate equals about $1.2 million.

The average Spotsylvania home was assessed at $173,839 in 2011 and $169,933 in 2012.

An owner of that house would pay $1,529, or $34 more, in real-estate taxes under the equalized rate.

In fact, of the homeowners whose tax bills would go up, 75 percent would have no more than a $200 increase. County officials calculated that 21 percent would see an increase of $201-$500, and 3.8 percent would see a jump of more than $500.

Most commercial taxpayers--almost 84 percent--would pay the same or less in real-estate taxes.

BUDGET INCREASE

Barnes' $450.6 million recommended budget is about $43 million, or 10.6 percent, more than the 2011-12 spending plan. The total includes operating and capital costs.

The increase, Barnes said, is deceptive.

That's because his proposed budget funds capital projects outright instead of issuing bonds for them--accounting for a little more than half of the overall budget increase. The county typically issues bonds, which are not immediately reflected in budgets.

About $20 million of the $26.6 million for capital projects is for transportation work, Barnes said. Almost all of the transportation expenses will be reimbursed by the state or federal governments.

Another reason for the increase is that the county has budgeted $5.9 million to pay off fire and rescue bonds issued in 2003. That money is in an escrow account.

The county is also using $2.4 million in local fuel-tax revenue for a one-time payment to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, which runs the Virginia Railway Express. Spotsylvania joined VRE in 2010.

KEY COSTS

The budget also includes:

$114.8 million in local funding for schools. That's the same amount the division received in 2011-12. But Barnes said his budget funds several capital projects for schools with money from reserves. That would save the division $1 million in debt-service payments, he said, freeing up that money for other school-system needs.

However, Spotsylvania Superintendent Shelley K. Redinger's proposed budget is $6.6 million more than last year's and provides 2.5 percent raises for staff and restores 20 classroom teachers.

$11.4 million in expenses from the county's reserves, which is a 2.1 percent increase from last year. Those costs include $2.5 million for school technology projects, $2.3 million for school bus replacements, $1.9 million for school capital maintenance and $1.4 million to replace some fire and emergency medical services equipment.

$315,500 for 5.12 full-time positions and seven part-time county government jobs. The full-time positions include an office technician for the department of economic development, a senior social worker, a safety/loss-prevention officer for the utilities department, a heavy equipment operator/mechanic trainee, an equipment operator for recycling and the conversion of a part-time sign coordinator to full time. The part-time jobs include two court deputies, two animal control officers, a maintenance worker for sign installation, a deputy registrar to maintain voting machines and an account clerk in the treasurer's office.

$1.65 million for the economic development opportunities fund. Of that amount, $750,000 would fund a marketing consultant and the rest would be for incentives for businesses.

$1.1 million for 2 percent cost-of-living pay increases for government employees.

Barnes noted that 79 percent of the budget is for mandated services. Local revenue is projected to increase by 2.7 percent, and state and federal revenue is expected to go up by almost 6 percent.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com




The proposed 2012-13 Spotsylvania County budget calls for an equalized tax rate of 90 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Here are some highlights:

The equalized tax rate is 4 cents more than the current 86 cent levy. This year's countywide reassessment dropped overall home values by about 2 percent. Commercial values have declined by about 9 percent since 2010. The equalized levy generates 1 percent more revenue for the county than it received in 2011-12.

The $450.6 million recommended budget is about $43 million, or 10.6 percent, more than the 2011-12 spending plan. The total includes operating and capital costs.

$114.8 million in local funding for schools. That's the same amount the division received in 2011-12.

$11.4 million in expenses come from the county's reserves, which is a 2.1 percent increase from last year.

$315,500 for 5.12 full-time positions and seven part-time jobs.

$1.1 million for 2 percent cost-of-living pay increases for government employees.

79 percent of the budget is for mandated services.

WHAT'S AHEAD?

The Board of Supervisors will have a work session 6 p.m. next Tuesday in the Holbert Building. They will decide what tax rate to advertise.

A public hearing on the budget and tax rate is set for March 29.

Supervisors are scheduled to approve the budget April 10.




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