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WATCH NOW: Stafford supervisors pass budget, residents spared tax hike
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WATCH NOW: Stafford supervisors pass budget, residents spared tax hike

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Stafford County supervisors held the line on a real estate tax rate increase Tuesday night, leaving the rate at 97 cents per $100 of assessed value for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Supervisors Tom Coen, Tinesha Allen and Cindy Shelton all preferred a slightly higher rate. Shelton asked for 99 cents to create a buffer for unforeseen county expenses in the future.

“You know what, I gotta do what’s right for Stafford County,” said Shelton. “And the reason I’m asking for the 2 cents is to be able to provide us the buffer for some of the things that we need because we cannot predict the future.”

Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer, who did not support an increase in the real estate tax rate, told supervisors this year marks the 10th budget cycle he’s participated in as a supervisor. Dudenhefer said in every annual budget planning phase, a core group of vocal citizens traditionally “scream about how the sky is falling” and “we can’t pay the teachers, we’re not providing infrastructure.”

“I think that we’re in good enough financial shape, the COVID environment that we’re in, hopefully we’re coming out of it, but I can’t support taking money out of the pockets of the citizens in Stafford,” he said.

Supervisor Crystal Vanuch summarizes budget highlights at the .97 tax rate during the April 20 meeting in which supervisors adopted the fiscal year 2022 budget. The resolution passed 4-3. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Andrea Light, county budget director, told supervisors a budget built around a 97-cent tax rate would give schools a $4.6 million local funding increase, which could fund a 5 percent pay raise for all school employees. She also said the county will have enough funding for a 2.25 percent scale adjustment for all employees, a 2.75 percent general government employee pay raise, and continued commitment to its public safety step pay plan.

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The new budget will also transfer $14.3 million to the capital fund to help pay for various county needs, including multiple road bond projects, a new fire station in Aquia and a sixth high school in the county.

Supervisors also dropped the $23 annual motor vehicle license fee.

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, the personal property tax rate will drop from $6.46 for each $100 of assessed value to $6.10, but that drop will be offset by an increase in the assessed value of motor vehicles from 40 percent to 50 percent.

Supervisors Meg Bohmke and Crystal Vanuch each voted against the measure to set the personal property rate at 6.10. Bohmke said she preferred a lower tax rate, but supports an increase in the assessed values of motor vehicles to be more in line with the majority of counties surrounding Stafford.

“I feel that the Commissioner of the Revenue should be going up with a higher percentage,” said Bohmke. “The only other comparative county that we have that’s at a 50 percent is Spotsylvania, and all of the other comparative counties are all at 100 percent. So, I just don’t agree with this methodology. … I just can’t support it at the 6.10.”

Supervisors also unanimously approved a 3 percent water and sewer increase that begins on July 1 for all county residents. County officials said the average Stafford homeowner will pay about $3 more each month as a result of the increase.

A 30-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund public safety expenses was deferred by supervisors until the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board accepts the county as a participant.

Last month, supervisors voted to advertise a proposed real estate tax rate of $1.01. That advertised figure was made public ahead of the April 6 public hearing on the budget, which drew only a handful of citizens to speak publicly on the issue. The supervisors eventually settled on the lower rate.

Detailed fiscal year 2022 budget information is available at staffordcountyva.gov.

James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438

jbaron@freelancestar.com

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I spent 23 years in the Navy in media relations and as a reporter. Prior to coming to The Free Lance-Star in 2019, I volunteered with a local non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated people transition back into society. I'm also an avid motorcyclist.

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