Warren County to advertise tax increase; 3.5-cent hike aimed at closing $4M shortfall

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — A 3-cent increase in the real estate tax rate will be advertised by the county in an effort to cover a nearly $4million short fall.

Previous talks by the supervisors centered on a potential three-cent increase.

"It is beyond out of the blue and took me by surprise," said Supervisor Dan Murray in a telephone interview about the extra half cent.

Supervisor Archie Fox made a motion at a special Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday to advertise the increase, which would bring the rate to 63 cents per $100 of assessed value. Supervisor Tony Carter seconded the motion.

The motion passed four to one, with supervisor Dan Murray as the dissenting vote. A budget public hearing is scheduled 7 p.m. April12.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said budget information would be available on the countyís website by April 1 and at the government center for citizens to review before the public hearing.

Once the tax rate is advertised, supervisors may not adjust it higher, but they can reduce it.

"It depends on what the people in the county want," Chairwoman Linda Glavis said. "Some people don't want to raise taxes for anything ... are people willing to support the things weíre offering?"

A one-penny increase in the real-estate tax rate would generates about $404,400, Stanley said.

School operations and the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail each would receive a penny of the increase, Stanley said. The remaining penny and a half would go toward opening the new middle school.

Stanley said $45,000 in public service tax money from Dominion Power would be generated by the additional half-cent increase. The utility tax Dominion pays the county is based on a formula that includes the real-estate tax rate.

Stanley suggested that the additional utility tax revenue be used as contingency funds, which the county could spend down the road. In total, the county would receive about $315,000 from Dominion.

Also discussed at the special meeting was that Samuels Public Library may receive about $35,000 in additional funding. This, after several of its staff members aired out complaints at the Board of Supervisors regular meeting last week.

The extra funding would come from cuts in the county owned Front Royal Golf Course. The library would use those funds to pay for employee raises and health insurance costs, Stanley said.

Murray said the library serves about 14,000 patrons per month, which represents less than half of the county. He would rather see the funds go toward teacher salaries or fire and rescue.

"If we're serving less than 50 percent of the county with an organization, and we're going to keep kicking money in, when do we stop?" Murray said.

Murray said the library was operating beyond its definition and should remove all ìfluff,î such as the array of classes it offers for free. He suggested that the classes should require a $5 to $10 fee.

"Whether it be music or dancing or crocheting, and run an operation as the definition of the operation is ... some of the costs should go away," Murray said.

Glavis said none of the budget requests presented to the supervisors by organizations and departments seemed to be "pie in the sky."

The golf course was asked to make cuts after it was a topic of discussion at the Board of Supervisors' last regular meeting. At that meeting, Stanley said that about $366,000 is included for operation of the public golf course in the drafted 2016-2017 budget. The anticipated revenue is about $247,000.

Cuts at the golf course proposed by Director of Warren County Parks and Recreation Daniel Lenz included closing the course from Dec 15. through Feb. 15 and cutting overtime and part-time compensation.

Fox said he did not understand why the county needs a publicly owned golf course because five privately owned courses already serve the community.

"We've been trying to make this thing make money for the 10 years that I've been on the board, and we haven't done it yet," Fox said.

Supervisor Tony Carter said that the golf course could not be shut down immediately because of a number of factors, including yearlong memberships and companiesí advertisements on the scoresheets.

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