Keaton advises supervisors to keep reassessment tax bump

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Schools, fire, rescue increases cited as justification

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton proposes the county keep the additional revenue generated by the recent reassessment, which saw an overall increase of 4.4 percent. 

While doing so would keep the current tax rate the same, 85 cents, the increase is the equivalent to a 2.7-cent increase in the real estate tax rate or $1.2 million. 

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Keaton went over the draft $78 million fiscal 2020 operating budget with the Board of Supervisors Thursday, an increase of $4.1 million from last year.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Those increases come, in part, from a $1 million increase in the schools budget, as well as increases in tax relief for the elderly and veterans ($398,000), fire and rescue ($215,000), parks and recreation ($213,000) and eight new full-time positions, among other items. 

The proposed budget also calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees, at a cost of $360,000. 

New full-time jobs include two previously approved animal control positions, three fire/medics, one maintenance and two public utility positions.

Not included in the budget was a request for five new school resource officers, school requests totaling $932,941, and five other county positions. 

The priciest items in the proposed $5.8 million capital budget are $2.3 million for public utilities, which includes a portion of the cost of the Route 10 waterline, and $1.9 million for school roof projects and engineering and design work on Hardy Elementary in preparation for a proposed renovation. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice has suggested the Board hire a consultant to do an independent assessment on Hardy to help decide if the school should be renovated or replaced. 

While the personal property and machinery and tools tax rates will remain the same, the budget calls for a 5-percent increase in the water rate for Isle of Wight customers. 

Keaton pointed out that the additional reassessment revenue could change as residents file appeals and go through the process. 

By law, the county can keep one percent of a reassessment increase, while any amount beyond that must be advertised to the public. 

If the county had proposed not keeping the additional money, it would have had to lower its tax rate to adjust for the difference — also known as being revenue neutral.  

Board Chairman William McCarty said he’s received several phone calls about increased reassessments and wanted the public to know that the Supervisors did not control that process.

It is overseen by the Commissioner of Revenue’s office, which hires a third party assessor to do the work, he said. 

“It’s something this Board will have to grapple with,” said McCarty. 

As an aside, McCarty, as well as Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice and Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree are up for re-election this year, and real estate taxes tend to be an election year concern. 

Keaton said large increases, or decreases, in an individual reassessment could be a mistake or could result from an incorrect assessment in 2015. 

The property reassessment is conducted every four years, and from 2012 until this year, values remained flat. 

The last time residents saw a large increase was in 2006, when the average assessment went up by nearly 42 percent. Two years later, and into the Great Recession, they dropped by an average of 5-6 percent.  {/mprestriction}