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Spotsylvania County resident Mac Smith is among a growing number of people in the Fredericksburg area to buy a new car in recent months.
He purchased a 2012 Acura MDX in November, six months before the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors voted to increase the personal-property tax rate by 11 cents.
But Smith said he's not worried about the new car-tax rate of $6.37 per $100 of assessed value. It will add less than $30 to his personal-property tax payments of more than $1,000.
"Such a small increase doesn't present a problem," Smith said. "Those types of fees I tend to consider a reinvestment into the community."
He does, however, say he thinks it's silly that the new majority on the Board of Supervisors--who campaigned on a platform of low taxes--talked extensively about cutting the real-estate tax rate, only to quietly raise the personal-property levy.
For some residents, particularly those who bought new cars, raising the personal-property tax rate could nullify the effect of the real-estate tax decrease, he said.
"From my perspective, that's just politicians being politicians," said Smith, a member of the Committee of 500 and a member last year of the Spotsylvania Democratic Committee. "You kind of get an eye roll as a taxpayer."
Supervisors Ann Heidig and Paul Trampe, who are among the conservative majority, stress that personal-property taxes will decrease for 75 percent of residents who have had the same cars since January 2011. The rest will see increases of a penny to no more than $50 when the bills arrive in May and November.
Heidig and Trampe also noted that the supervisors significantly decreased the advertised personal-property tax rate of $6.65.
"That was part of our goal to try to keep the tax burden as low as possible for the citizens of Spotsylvania County," Heidig said.
Revenue from the 11-cent personal-property tax rate increase will cover county employees' contributions to their retirement plans, and offset lowering the county's Business, Professional and Occupational License tax and declining car values.
Trampe said he wanted to "spread the tax relief between the real-estate rate, personal property and BPOL."
Spotsylvania officials expect to collect $1.3 million more in personal-property taxes in 2012-13 than in the current fiscal year because of more vehicles in the county and more residents buying new cars.
In fact, more new vehicles were registered in the Fredericksburg area in March than in any month since June 2008, according to data recently released by the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.
In Spotsylvania, 1,292 vehicles were registered during the first three months of 2012. That's 262 more than in the same period last year.
Smith says that for him and other new-car buyers, the personal-property tax increase may cancel out the decrease to the county administrator's recommended real-estate rate.
"You haven't really done anything for me," he said.
The Board of Supervisors last week approved a real-estate tax rate of 88 cents per $100 of assessed value--two cents below the equalized rate--following a countywide reassessment of property.
The rate for 2012-13 is more than the current 86-cent rate because overall home values declined by 2 percent, based on the reassessment.
Supervisor Benjamin Pitts said the board's new majority violated its campaign pledge to not increase taxes.
"They can try to wash it any way they want," Pitts said. "They supported a tax increase."
Pitts voted in favor of the approved real-estate and personal-property tax rates, but had expressed support for the equalized real-estate rate.
County Administrator Doug Barnes recommended the equalized rate of 90 cents, which would have generated 1 percent more revenue than the previous year as allowed under state code.
The 2-cent reduction to the equalized rate will save the average homeowner $34, based on the average assessed value of residential property.
Under the 88-cent rate, about 56 percent of homeowners will pay lower taxes, and the rest will pay more.
Spotsylvania officials expect to collect $102.7 million in real-estate taxes for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's $300,000 more than the county anticipates receiving this fiscal year.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402