, 2015

Lancaster taxpayers
could face increase

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—Supervisors are considering a proposal to increase real estate taxes to cover additional funding for capital improvement projects (CIP), public schools, public safety, compensation and a 59% increase in employee insurance costs in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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Citing rising prices and declining reserve funds, supervisors also asked county administrator Frank Pleva to look into the cost of securing a bond to cover the proposed CIP budget versus raising county real estate taxes from 50 to 55 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Each penny of the real estate tax rate brings in approximately $253,000 of revenue—a five cent increase would boost revenue by $1,265,000, according to Commissioner of the Revenue Sonny Thomas.

“The advertised figure (of 55 cents) is the maximum” under consideration, said board chairman Wally Beauchamp. “It should be somewhat lower than that. We are facing a $1 million deficit this year.”

According to Beauchamp, part of the problem for rural counties is “...not knowing what the Commonwealth is going to do because of constant delays in the (General Assembly) passing the state budget.” He said state funding covers some of the costs for schools, public safety and other agencies. Delays at the state level force the county to speculate on how much they will cover.

Last year, supervisors passed a real estate tax rate of $0.50 per $100 of assessed value, an equalized increase of $0.11 to adjust to lower 2012 property reassessments. The adjustment resulted in a break-even rate on county revenue and a minimal effect on the amount paid by most homeowners.

This year’s proposed maximum increase would raise the tax bill for a home with an assessed value of $147,500 from $737 to $811. The tax bill for a home assessed at $535,300 would increase from $2,671 to $2,939.

Supervisors are proposing no changes in other tax rates per $100 of value—with motor vehicles at $2.04, all other personal property at $1.52, machinery and tools at $1.52 and merchant’s capital at $1 per $100 of assessed value discounted 50%.

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