Real estate tax rate to remain level this year

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

No real estate tax rate increase, a decrease in stormwater fees and an increase in water and sewer rates are just a few of the highlights of the proposed fiscal 2018 Isle of Wight County budget.

Isle of Wight County employees could also see a 2 percent pay increase, as well as a 1 percent merit increase, according to the proposed budget.

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Another budget highlight is that the county’s refuse and recycling centers will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, open 1 – 7 p.m. Sunday and closed Wednesday. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton presented the proposed $72.4 million operating budget to the Board of Supervisors on April 5, which represents a 2 percent increase over fiscal 2016.

The budget calls for a 10 percent decrease in the residential and commercial stormwater fees, but Newport District Supervisor William McCarty wanted to see what a 25 percent reduction would look like.

Since the county not longer has to meet the demands of a the MS4 permit, why not reduce the stormwater bill to residents by 25 percent, McCarty asked.

MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System and is administered by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Having a permit invokes a higher level of state-imposed stormwater requirements. The county was able to have that permit terminated last year.

As for the water and sewer rate increase, it was initially projected to be 9 percent, but staff was able to reduce it to 5 percent, Keaton said.

Isle of Wight already has one of the highest water and sewer rates in the region, according to a study completed by Arcadis in 2015.  

Keaton also increased the budget contingency from $100,000 to $400,000 as a hedge against going to the rainy day fund (fund balance) for unforeseen expenses.

The $100,000 wasn’t enough for a $72.4 million operating budget, Keaton said.

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice questioned the 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) and explained the connection between original federal intent of “COLA” increases and Social Security, pointing out that the county’s version was simply a pay increase.

Grice said he was an advocate of merit pay increases but not a “pay raise just because you’re there.”

As the pay increase includes a 5 percent increase in employee paid health care costs, Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he wanted to know what that health care increase looked like to the average employee.

For those at the higher end of the pay scale, 2 percent is more than for those at the lower end — and as a result the 5 percent health care cost increase has more of an effect on those making a lower salary, Acree said. 

Keaton said the pay increase was to keep the county regionally competitive, but would provide those figures at the next meeting.

Isle of Wight County was the only locality in the region to not get a pay raise last year, Keaton said.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin wanted staff to look at the county’s business license fee.

There is a flat rate for gross receipts up to $49,999 and once it hits $50,000 there’s a large increase, said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

The idea is to even out the impact, Robertson said.

“If we have to collect less, so be it,” Alphin said.

Grice pointed out that sentiment was fine for Alphin because he won’t be on the Board next year.

Alphin’s face turned as red as his tie.

Alphin is running for the 64th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He also decided not to run for another term as supervisor, so regardless, wouldn’t be on the Board next year anyway.

The business license tax is estimated to bring in $721,000 in revenue for fiscal 2018.

The debt service for fiscal 2018 is projected at $9.39 million, up 32 percent from the current fiscal year, which is $7 million.  The $9.39 million includes the new E911 radio system, as well as the $750,000 that would go to pay for the proposed Career and Technical Education program with Isle of Wight County schools.

The $750,000 annual debt payment would replace the $952,000 that has in the past gone to pay the tuition at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology. The remaining $200,000 is to go to pay instructional costs.

A public hearing on the proposal to take out a roughly $8 million loan over 14 years to pay for the new CTE program is scheduled for April 20.

The budget also includes two new deputies to complete Isle of Wight County Sheriff Mark Marshall’s request last year for five deputies to staff a Carrollton patrol.

Keaton said the proposed budget would not be possible without a flat budget from the school division and the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, as well as a $1.57 million decrease transfers to the utility fund.

The county’s public utilities are designed to be self-sufficient, but are not, and that’s where the transfer from the general fund comes from, said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. The amount went down because depreciation will not be shown as an $1 million expense, and the county expects to receive an addition $570,000 in revenues, he said.  {/mprestriction}