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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Culpeper businesses and homeowners will be getting higher real-estate tax bills come October.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to raise the real-estate tax rate by 5 cents, and agreed to add another penny to help fund fire and rescue.
That will put the fiscal 2013 real-estate tax rate at 72 cents per $100 of assessed value and the fire and rescue rate at 8 cents. The higher rates will add about $120 to the annual bill for a $200,000 home.
Those rates, combined with personal-property and other similar taxes (the rates of which remain unchanged), will fund a $160 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Of that amount, $21 million will come from a bond referendum approved last November to renovate Culpeper High School.
The only change to the budget Wednesday was an addition of $15,000 that will be added to the Community Services Board budget.
"These people do a lot for Culpeper," said Supervisor Sue Hansohn. "They've asked for $30,000 and I'd like to see us fund half of that."
The other supervisors agreed.
Chairman Bill Chase questioned $1 million that was included in the budget to build an outer loop. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.
"I'd like to see us take that out and lower the tax rate," Chase said. "If the town goes ahead with its inner loop, that road might not even be necessary."
Supervisor Larry Aylor countered by saying that the $1 million, which will be taken from the general fund, will be matched by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
"Even though the economy is down, we still have to keep upgrading our infrastructure," Aylor said.
Supervisor Bradley Rosenberger added that the 5-cent real-estate tax increase will be used to fund the high school renovation project.
"The voters knew that when they approved the referendum last November," Rosenberger said.
Chase was also against returning $1.4 million in unused school money in this year's budget to the School Board's operating fund. Without special permission from the Board of Supervisors, that money goes either back into the county's general fund or to capital improvement projects next year.
"I just want the School Board to know that this is totally against our policy," Chase said.
The money will, however, be restored to the school system's operating budget.
In other action, the supervisors voted unanimously to spend $268,000 to have two currently owned ambulance "boxes" put on new chassis in an effort to save money.
Procurement director Alan Culpeper said that two new ambulances would cost about $190,000 each, not including emergency equipment, so rebuilding the old ones would save almost $150,000.
Emergency Services Director Tom Williams added that the new chassis will be International instead of Ford, which are now being used. He said the Ford engines have been plagued with problems.
"I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how much we have spent in repair bills for them," Williams said.
The board took no action to stop its traffic impact fee--postponed for 12 months a year ago--from going into effect July 1.
That fee will impact the price of new homes and add substantial costs to new businesses that generate traffic. The money raised will be used to fund highway projects.
In another matter, the rezoning request for the Clevinger's Corner project for 275 homes was tabled for 60 days, until the July meeting, at the request of developer Jim Epstein.