Tax increases proposed to help fund spending plan in Berryville

Posted: March 20, 2014

The Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — It appears there aren’t enough new cars in town.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Town Council looked over the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 — a $5.6 million spending plan — that will require additional property tax revenue, among other increases, to fund.

The councilors agreed to advertise the budget plan and set a public hearing on the tax rates for its April 8 meeting.

Treasurer Desiree Moreland said the value of vehicles garaged in town has apparently fallen — to the point where a 5-cent increase in the $1 per $100 of value tax rate is needed to bring in the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year.

The same thing has apparently happened to the taxable machinery and tools in town. Council agreed to advertise a 12-cent increase in that rate, from $1.182 to $1.30 per $100 to level the revenue in that category.

The real estate tax rate will also rise, from 11.6 cents to 13.6 cents.

Moreland noted that the town depends on the county to keep track of who owns what real estate and how much it is worth for tax purposes. To save money in its budget, however, the county has not paid to reassess property in six years, she said.

A reassessment is scheduled for 2015, which will determine values in town until 2021.

The town’s meals tax would also increase under the proposal, from 2 to 4 percent.

Water usage fees would also rise, from $7.05 to $8 per thousand gallons of usage. There will be no change in the sewer rate.

One piece of good news Moreland had for the councilors was that health care costs for town employees, expected to rise 13 percent, stayed level. 1/2

Councilwoman Mary Daniel was concerned that the town needs to adopt its budget by July 1, but the General Assembly has yet to agree on a spending plan for the state.

The Assembly, which is currently adjourned, is scheduled to reconvene in a special session on Monday to address the budget.

However, Moreland said there doesn’t appear to be any dispute over the funds the state should send to the town, if and when it does vote in a budget.

“We’ve got to keep providing services anyway,” said Councilman H. Allen Kitselman III.

Daniel said she was concerned about the real estate tax hike.

But Mayor Wilson Kirby noted that the town has used up all its “rainy day” funds.

“We’re not being extravagant,” he said, adding, “Our hands are tied. We can’t make the figures work out without this increase. We have to balance the budget.”

To increase revenue, Kitselman suggested the town look into the possibility of adding a cigarette tax in next year’s budget and a lodging tax, if a hotel becomes a reality.

Attending the meeting in the Joint Government Center were Mayor Wilson Kirby and council members Mary Daniel, David Tollett, H. Allen Kitselman III and Harry “Jay” Arnold Jr. Douglas Shaffer was absent.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com