STEPHENS CITY — Real estate taxes and business license fees will increase with Town Council's unanimous Tuesday night approval of a $1.8 million fiscal year 2022 budget.

Starting July 1, the real estate tax rate will increase from 14 to 15 cents per $100 of assessed value. Business license fees will increase from a $15 base fee plus 15 cents per $100 of gross receipts to a $20 base fee plus 16 cents per $100 of gross receipts.

The real estate tax rate is increasing because the town did not sufficiently offset the revenue lost when personal property taxes were eliminated last year. Officials have said the increase will prevent significant budget cuts to sidewalk repairs, public works or the police department.

The Town Council also unanimously postponed the tax due date from July 5 to Aug. 9 because of a delay in sending tax bills, which Town Manager Mike Majher explained was caused by technical difficulties with the tax database. 

The council also unanimously appointed town Planning Commission member Mariah Smith as an council member. She will fill the vacancy left by Julia Young, who resigned earlier this month. Smith will step down as a planner in order to serve on council. She will hold the position until a November special election.

Smith has been a planning commissioner since February. She served in the Army for 20 years — 10 years as a military police officer and 10 years as a congressional liaison. She has done tours of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa.

Mayor Mike Diaz said two applicants for the vacant seat qualified while other applicants live outside of town. Diaz ultimately recommended the council appoint Smith because the other qualified applicant did not provide proof of address before Tuesday’s special meeting.

Smith thanked the council for considering her, saying she purchased a local home two years before retiring because she knew she wanted to reside in Stephens City.

“My first year here has been wonderful,” Smith said. “The people I’ve met, what I’ve learned being on the Planning Commission led by Vice Mayor Fravel, I’m fascinated by both the history of the town as well as the current challenges that it’s facing. I know we are going through a lot of growth, which is a great issue to have, but it brings with it challenges, and I see the role that town council has in making smart, long-term decisions.”

Since joining the Planning Commission in February, Smith said she attended every Town Council meeting because she realized the importance of being involved, listening to issues and developing an understanding.       

Attending the meeting at the Town Office at 1033 Locust St. were Mayor Mike Diaz and council members Linden Fravel, Pete Fravel and Ron Bowers. Council members Regina Swygert-Smith and Tina Stevens participated remotely.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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