Many tax-related issues across the land will no doubt continue to grow more complex in the years to come — but in Rappahannock County this fall, a simple line item for a flat-rate county motor vehicle tax will reappear on most everyone’s tax bills.
At the same time, county stickers — the windshield decal that indicated you had paid what was for years a flat $20 fee on each of your qualifying vehicles — will no longer be required.
At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a revised motor vehicle tax ordinance that eliminates the need for the decals and allows the board to set the flat-rate tax annually, when it sets the personal-property and real estate tax rates after the spring’s budget season.
Though there were no comments from a sparse crowd during the public hearing for the ordinance, the supervisors discussed at length why the flat rate would be a simpler alternative to what the supervisors did for the current tax year — when it did away with the flat rate entirely, and attempted to compensate for the lost revenue by adding 25 cents to the county’s personal property tax rate.
County Administrator John McCarthy apologized back in September for miscalculating the complex array of moving parts that is the Virginia taxation system — when that addition to the personal property tax rate turned out to match only the old $20 flat rate if a taxpayer’s vehicle was worth $8,000 (based on NADA Blue Book value). He had estimated you’d pay about the same if your vehicle was worth $20,000, but owners of $20,000 vehicles this year paid a “virtual” sticker fee of $50.
“This will absolutely be easier to understand,” said County Treasurer Debbie Knick, asked by supervisors Bryant Lee and Chris Parrish what she’d recommend during the meeting. “And I think fairer all around.” Knick said her office did not receive “a lot” of complaints, but they did hear from some taxpayers about this year’s changes.
To compensate for this year’s increases, McCarthy expects the supervisors will adjust the motor vehicle flat rate down this year — as well as remove that 25-cent increase from this year’s personal property tax rate.
Likewise following public-hearing sessions during which the handful of citizens present could have easily heard a pin dropping, the supervisors also passed two amendments to its zoning ordinance — adjustments, primarily, to conform to:
• Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements for flood-plain development restrictions, necessary for any property owners in the 100-year flood areas along the Thornton River in Sperryville and in assorted hollows, who wish to obtain federally subsidized flood insurance; and
• Various changes made over the past few years by the General Assembly in Richmond, including (for example) the allowance that any agricultural operation that wishes to open a brewery have the same right to do that as farms that wish to start a winery business.
After brief discussion, and after McCarthy recommended they delete it, the board voted to remove one of the amendment’s provisions which would have allowed the zoning administrator to issue variances in cases where all the concerned neighbors all agreed to small changes, such as property setback adjustments, without requiring an applicant to seek the Board of Zoning Appeals’ approval.
After a longer discussion, the board voted 3-2 to also delete a change that McCarthy, who is the county administrator as well as zoning administrator, had recommended: To change the language in the code that allows the BZA to accept a less-than-50-foot-wide right of way as access to a proposed bed and breakfast. The BZA’s discretion — which it exercised two years ago when it went against both a planning commission vote and McCarthy’s recommendations to allow Harmony House B&B to operate five B&B rooms on 20-foot-wide Clark Lane — is what’s at issue in the lawsuit filed against the county by residents of Clark Lane. The suit is still awaiting resolution in Rappahannock County Circuit Court.
After passing a resolution recognizing retired planning commission chair Charley Strittmatter for his 12 years on the commission, the board at its afternoon session Monday approved Wakefield district supervisor chair Roger Welch’s nomination of Jason Brady of Flint Hill to fill the seat. Brady, a vice president and senior commercial banker at Union First Market Bank, is 37, and becomes the commission’s youngest member.
Welch looked at Brady, who stood to accept the appointment. “Jason, would you like make any sort of statement about how much trouble you’ve just gotten yourself into?” Welch asked.
“No, thank you,” Brady said, smiling as he sat.
The board also appointed BZA member Chris Bird as the BZA’s representative to the planning commission.
The supervisors also agreed to advertise for at least three members of a county board of assessors, a temporary panel created to assist with the six-year real estate reassessment currently underway. McCarthy was authorized to seek candidates and report back at next month’s meeting.
The supervisors heard several presentations Monday afternoon, including a very brief one-pager from Hal Hunter of Amissville, about the “Rappahannock at Home” project he’s been working on with local organizations and individuals.
Hunter’s one-sheet summary described the project as a part of the nationwide Village to Village Network, which helps establish such low-cost ways to allow aging populations to “age in place and delay going to costly assisted-living facilities.” At the 140 or so villages that already exist in 40 states, Hunter said, yearly memberships average about $450.
The networks help offer and coordinate services as well as social connections, said Hunter, whose information sheet noted support from Aging Together, the county’s social services department, the Rappahannock Senior Center and Rappahannock Food Pantry, 4-H, the Benevolent Fund, the local clergy association and the regional planning district. Hunter is focused on finding ways to subsidize the Rappahannock at Home village, he said.
A longer presentation on the state of Rappahannock County’s health and healthcare options was made by Cee Ann Davis, director of the health district that includes the county, whose statistics she said revealed no alarming but several troubling trends — including Rappahannock’s apparent part in the rise of sexually transmitted infections statewide and nationwide. Though Rappahannock had no new cases of HIV or AIDs in 2014, she said, there were 20 cases of chlamydia treated in 2014, a significant increase over the 2013 figure (7 cases). Cases of gonorrhea were also rising (in Rappahannock from zero in 2013 to two in 2014, but at higher rates elsewhere in the state).