Real estate tax could see a 3-cent increase in Isle of Wight

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County residents could face a three-cent real estate tax increase — the fourth in the past six years.

If ultimately approved, the rate would increase from 85 to 88 cents per $100 in assessed value. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The real estate tax rate has gone up 33 cents — already more than 50 percent — since fiscal 2011 for a variety of reasons, including the loss of revenue from International Paper, the cost of the Norfolk water deal, other expenses and debt service. 

The latest increase being proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget is due, in part, to plans for a new $11 million public safety radio system, a new water line down Route 10, school facility improvements, state mandated teacher raises and the final contribution to state-mandated changes to the Virginia Retirement System, according to interim Isle of Wight County Administrator Sanford “Sandy” Wanner.

“We were trying to make it on the growth we’ve had, but we couldn’t do it,” Wanner said of the needed increase.

Previous County Administrator Anne Seward had planned on two five-cent tax increases in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017 as part of her three year financial plan, so this proposed increase is seven cents less than that.

The proposed fiscal 2017 operating budget is clearly stated as $71.8 million in revenue and expenditures. Of that, $60.5 million is in local revenue.

Details of the proposed budget include:

•The elimination of three full-time positions and the reclassification of one part-time and 2.5 full-time positions resulted in a savings of $55,133. The proposed fiscal 2017 budget maintains the salary increases that were made as a result of last year’s compensation study. The proposed budget also calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all employees July 1, in part to cover increased health insurance costs.

Last year, Isle of Wight County employees received an average pay raise of about $3,700. Of the roughly 219 full-time employees, close to two thirds got a raise. Of those that did get a raise, nearly 40 percent were in the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office. The total cost to implement the pay and classification study, including the Sheriff’s Office, was estimated at $817,230. Employees also received a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase last July to offset health care costs.

•The proposed budget includes a 10-year repayment plan for Isle of Wight County schools to replenish the $3.5 million removed from county reserves to cover the costs of the failure to adhere to the Davis Bacon Act in the building of Georgie D. Tyler Middle School. Wanner is proposing that $350,000 of school appropriations be instead funneled into county reserves as a strategy to replenish the fund. As a result, the total local contribution for schools is proposed at $25.5 million. Also, any unspent school funds at the end of the fiscal year would go to replenishing the school capital maintenance plan, fund major one-time capital needs and further expedite the repayment of the Davis Bacon debt. The county’s unassigned fund balance (reserves) is now estimated at $9.6 million. The county’s financial policy calls for keeping at least 10 percent of the operating budget in the unassigned fund balance.

•The proposed fiscal 2017 capital projects fund includes $3.1 million for the Nike Park-Smithfield bike and pedestrian trail; $2.3 million for the Route 10 water line; $300,000 for the pad-ready intermodal park site; and $841,000 for a multi-modal sidewalk at Westside Elementary School.

•The schools are requesting $2.5 million in roof repairs for Carrsville, Carrollton and Windsor elementary schools. That request is for the next fiscal year’s, 2018, capital improvement plan.

•To pay for the new public safety radio system, the proposed budget calls for borrowing $9 million with an interest-only payment of $150,000 for fiscal 2017.

•Requests not funded included five additional sheriff’s deputies to create a Carrollton patrol zone. The request would have added 1.5 cents to the tax rate. 

The Supervisors plan to hold a work session before and after a public hearing to give the Board time to react to comments from residents. A work session will be held April 14 and 27 and a public hearing will be held April 21 during the regular Board meeting. The Board plans to adopt the budget at a special meeting May 10 at 7 p.m.  {/mprestriction}

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