Lower the county tax rate

Published 3:42 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Is the proposed fiscal year 2017 tax rate too high? How much do the supervisors really get paid?

Advisers hired by the county projected the $12 million loan for the new courts facility would increase debt costs $500,000 annually and require a 5-cent real estate tax increase (a penny on the tax rate equals $100,000 per year revenue).

Accordingly, the supervisors raised the FY 2016 real estate tax rate from 48 cents to 53 cents per $100 of assessed value, or a 5-cent increase.

However, debt costs increased less than projected. Per the FY 2017 proposed budget, debt cost (principal and interest) increased less than $270,000 from FY 2015 to FY 2017 rather than the projected $500,000 increase.

Simply speaking, to pay the new debt only required a 2.7-cent tax increase, but the supervisors raised taxes 5 cents resulting in additional revenue.

Few people realize the supervisors give themselves the same insurance benefits (health, dental, vision and life) that county employees earn with a budgeted FY 2017 cost of almost $53,000.

Simply speaking, the supervisors’ insurance adds 0.5 cents on the real estate tax rate. Adding the insurance benefit of $7,500 to an annual salary of $6,000 totals $13,500 per supervisor (albeit insurance may be a little more valuable with the benefit of the county group plan).

I propose the supervisors lower the FY 2017 real estate tax rate to 50 cents per $100, a 3-cent reduction. The excess FY 2016 tax increase and surplus can fund a 2.5-cent reduction and eliminating the supervisors’ free insurance can save 0.5 cents. 

Or if you believe supervisors truly deserve free insurance (many counties do not), we have already been taxed for it.

The county ended FY 2015 with an unassigned fund balance of $8.5 million, and cash balances are $800,000 higher at the end of February 2016 than February 2015.

Maybe you do not like my proposal and think taxes should be rolled back to the FY 2015 rates or even lower.

This is affordable with the large surplus. Your voice is needed; already the county administrator and supervisors are talking about a FY 2018 tax increase.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to be taxed now for future school improvements. New schools will be financed over time the same as the new courts facility. 

Interest rates are low. Current taxpayers should only pay for current costs, not an excessive surplus.

Become involved as a citizen. Talk to the supervisors, and not just the one in your district — they all need to listen. Ask pointed questions. Attend the 7 p.m. budget hearing on Tuesday.

Fill the room and ask why taxes are so high. Ask them to show you the numbers in writing. In the spirit of public service, consider running for the board next year. Or run for your own benefit and the $6,000 salary, free health insurance and a free lunch.

Terry Ramsey is a 1967 graduate of Randolph-Henry High School and a resident of Charlotte Court House. He can be reached at Terrill.Ramsey@outlook.com.