The $22.83 million fiscal-year 2016 draft budget released this week by Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy would, if approved without modification by the board of supervisors, mean a 2-cent increase in the county’s property tax rate.
In his cover letter to the board, McCarthy described the increase as principally driven by a nearly $100,000 rise in the school budget’s local funding request this year, and increased costs for emergency services (much of that for the county’s share of a an upgraded tri-county communications system).
It would raise the 2015-16 real estate tax rate by just under 3 percent — to 71 cents per $100 of assessed value. The county is also in the early stages of an every-six-years property value reassessment, a process that is expected to document an overall rise in real estate values (though some have predicted the sharpest rise will be among the county’s highest-end properties).
This also being an election year for two of the five supervisors, local political observers expect some supervisor push-back on the proposed tax increase. Wakefield district supervisor Roger Welch, the board’s chair, and Jackson district’s Ron Frazier are both seeking reelection; Hampton district’s Bryant Lee is retiring from the board.
McCarthy said half of the 2-cent rate hike would go toward returning the county’s fire levy (which helps fund fire and rescue services) to the 5-cent rate where it stood until several years ago.
“The fire levy increase is necessary partially to offset increased costs, but also to start to fund the county’s share of the radio system improvements in partnership with Fauquier and Culpeper counties,” McCarthy wrote in his letter to the supervisors. “The general levy increase is to pay for the additional $94,451 in local school funding requested, as well as the local share of the state-mandated 2-percent salary increases for state-responsible employees (largely constitutional officers’ employees) and for other county employees, as well as a 4.7-percent health insurance premium increase for all.”
McCarthy also noted that fiscal year 2016 (which begins July 1) includes, for the first time, the county’s share of debt service payments on the RSW Regional Jail — not quite doubling the county’s share of operations costs, which were about $300,000 last year. He noted that the county’s share of inmates (which determines over time the county’s share of costs) continues to decline in proportion to those of Shenendoah and Warren counties.
“In other new spending, the county’s share of regional efforts in mental health first aid and Critical Incident Team response for mental health issues is included, largely in the hopes of heading off some much higher costs that come from Comprehensive Services Act and criminal justice/law enforcement impacts,” McCarthy wrote.
“I want to thank the Sheriff for working to manage her payroll and personnel complement in this transition year from a local jail to the regional facility,” he wrote. “If current occupancy levels continue, I feel there will be room to add an additional position to her staffing (replacing one of three that were reduced over the past year) in the late summer or early fall.”
The supervisors’ public hearing — on both the school and county budgets — is 7 p.m. Monday, April 27 at the high school auditorium. The board will likely approve a final school budget at its regular monthly meeting May 4 (at the 2 p.m. session), and the overall county budget at either its regular first-Monday-in June session or a work session later in the month.
To see all of Rappahannock County’s budget-related documents online, visit boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public and click on the “Library” tab.