Smithfield budget calls for reducing real estate tax rate

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Smithfield’s proposed 2023-24 budget calls for a 2-cent, or roughly 10%, reduction in the town’s real estate tax rate in light of an average 28% increase in assessed property valuations.

Isle of Wight County retained Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group to reassess home values this year in accordance with a provision of state law that requires reassessment every four years.

Leaving the town’s tax rate at its current 19 cents per $100 would give the town a roughly $800,000 windfall of additional tax revenue, but at the expense of homeowners seeing a significant increase in the amount owed on their tax bills.

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For example, someone with a home valued at $350,000 would see a roughly $166.25 increase in his or her bill.

Town Manager Michael Stallings’ proposed general fund budget, which totals $10.2 million, calls for a 17-cent-per-$100 real estate rate, which would still bring the town roughly $500,000 more than the real estate revenues generated for the current year, but result in only a $78.75 increase in taxes on the owner of the same hypothetical $350,000 home.

The Town Council voted unanimously on May 8 to move forward with advertising the 17-cent rate for a June 6 public hearing. Under state law, the council has the option of adopting a lower-than-advertised rate but cannot exceed the rate advertised.

Councilwoman Renee Rountree, who said her home went up in value 46.6%, is still hoping for what Stallings described as a “revenue-neutral” 14-cent option.

Lowering the tax rate to 14 cents would result in the town taking in roughly the same amount of money as the 19-cent rate generated under the 2019 assessments.

Smithfield’s 10% rate reduction roughly mirrors Isle of Wight County’s plan to lower its real estate tax rate from 85 cents per $100 to 73 cents, or 14%, which also would not be revenue-neutral.

Stallings’ proposed budget includes 5% raises for town personnel, with a minimum $1,000 increase, and the addition of two employees – an engineer in the Public Works Department and a part-time Human Resources administrative assistant.

The budget also allocates $30,000 for a redesign of the town’s website.

“We’ve been having some issues with our current (website) host and reliability,” Stallings said.

The Town Council will likely take action on Stallings’ proposed budget on June 26 following its scheduled committee meetings.