Surry adopts 6-cent tax increase

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Surry County’s Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 May 20 to adopt its proposed $28.2 million budget, which includes a 6-cent real estate tax increase.

The budget and tax increase will take effect July 1 — the beginning of the county’s 2021-2022 fiscal year.

A number of factors are driving the tax increase. On the revenue side, the county is anticipating a $710,000 drop in the public service corporation taxes from Dominion Energy’s Surry nuclear power plant, and a $105,000 decline in investment income due to the COVID-19 pandemic driving interest rates to historic lows. On the expenditure side, the state’s 2020-2022 biennial budget is mandating a 5% raise for teachers, and the county plans to give a 5% raise to its employees as well. There’s also a $182,000 increase in debt service to cover the money the county borrowed last year to upgrade its public safety radio system, increased costs for the state’s Children’s Services Act and increased contractual costs for jail and juvenile detention. County Administrator Melissa Rollins had initially proposed a 5-cent increase, but Board Chairman Robert Elliott recommended adding an extra penny to the rate to help fund replacement vehicles for the Surry County Sheriff’s Office.

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Voting against the budget and associated tax increase were supervisors Michael Drewry and Tim Calhoun.

“I understand the need for revenue, but I cannot support the philosophy of this budget,” Drewry said.

With the adopted increase, Surry’s real estate rate will rise from its current 71 cents per $100 of assessed value to 77 cents, which is still lower than the 85 cents neighboring Isle of Wight County charges.

Prior to the vote, Rollins informed the board of two last-minute changes to the budget. One allocates an additional $10,000 to support the Peanut, Soil and Water Conservation District and another grants the District 19 Community Services Board’s request for $70,120 in funding — a $7,372 increase over what was initially proposed.

Drewry then called upon his fellow board members to begin budget talks for the 2022-2023 fiscal year soon, and to take “bold initiatives” to “reverse the decline in this county.”

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the county’s July 2019 estimated population of 6,422 represents a 9.1% decline from the 7,064 counted in the 2010 census. The Virginia Department of Education is also forecasting a roughly 16% drop in enrollment this September from Surry County Public Schools’ pre-pandemic population of 740 students.