BERRYVILLE — A one-cent increase in the town’s real estate tax rate is official now.
The increase, from 19 cents to 20 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed value, is effective with the 2019 tax year that began Jan. 1. But it is part of an approximately $6.98 million budget that Berryville Town Council adopted Tuesday night for fiscal 2020, which will start July 1.
Under the rate hike, the owners of a home assessed at $150,000, for example, will see their annual tax bill go up $15, from $285 to $300.
Officials anticipate the higher rate will generate about $50,000 in extra revenue to cover town needs they have deemed crucial, such as the hiring of a new treasurer and deputy town manager.
However, the extra money has not been designated to cover any specific things, according to Assistant Town Manager/Treasurer Desiree Moreland.
Moreland will retire on Sept. 30. Mayor Patricia Dickinson has said she would prefer for a new treasurer to focus solely on handling financial and risk matters.
Hiring a deputy town manager will give Town Manager Keith Dalton more time to focus on long-range planning and in-depth projects, officials have said. Plans are for the community development, public works and utilities directors to report to the deputy manager and the treasurer to report to Dalton.
The annual salary range for both new employees will be $68,000 to $83,000.
Following a public hearing in April, the council adopted an ordinance setting the 20-cent tax rate. Only two residents voiced opposition to the increase during the hearing.
As part of the adopted budget, the tax rate for machinery and tools will remain at $1.30 per $100 of assessed value. The rate for personal property (vehicles) will remain at $1.25 per $100. But car and truck owners receive up to 70 percent relief on their tax bills as a result of $209,917 that Berryville is allocated by the state yearly under the Personal Property Tax Relief Act.
No increases in the town’s lodging, meals and cigarette taxes are budgeted, as are no increases in business and professional license rates.
The spending plan includes a 3% cost-of-living pay raise for town employees.
It does not reflect increases in water and sewer rates that the council plans to adopt later this year. Amounts have not yet been decided on. But officials say increases are needed to cover repair and replacement of aging water and sewer infrastructure in the coming years.
“Water and sewer rates have got to go up if we’re going to fix anything in our little town,” said Councilwoman Donna Marie McDonald. “If the water plant falls in (the river), what are we going to drink?”
The balanced $6,977,019 budget reflects a roughly 0.8 percent increase from the current fiscal year’s budget of $6,921,652.
With no real discussion, the budget was adopted in a unanimous vote following a motion by Councilwoman Erecka Gibson that was seconded by Councilwoman Kara Rodriguez.
In another matter, the council adopted a resolution authorizing the town manager to execute lease agreements and related financing arrangements, as long as the total value of any such pacts does not exceed $100,000.
Such agreements sometimes are necessary for the town to obtain products and services it needs to conduct day-to-day business, the resolution shows.
The matter arose as a result of the town having to update its agreement to lease photocopying equipment.
Also, the council honored four current and former Berryville residents.
Resolutions honoring Dorothy Lee Broy Grubbs, who celebrated her 100th birthday on April 1, and the late Paul R. Jones were adopted.
A retired employee of Doubleday (now Berryville Graphics), Grubbs also is a former employee of Ramsburg Grocery Store and Veteran’s Cleaners.
Jones, who recently died, was a retired principal and administrator with the Clarke County Public Schools and a former council member. He also was involved in establishing the Josephine School Community Museum and the Clarke County African-American Cultural Center.
Dickinson issued proclamations recognizing Daniel Marsden, a Clarke County High School student and member of Boy Scout Troop 34 who has achieved Eagle Scout status; and Stephen Lilly, a five-year employee of the town’s utilities department who recently died in a motorcycle accident.
Dalton remembered Lilly as being a talented employee.
“Stephen’s loss to this work family and community are significant,” Dalton said. “We’re going to miss him, but we’re going to move on and persevere.”