Board votes on tax increases

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Charlotte County Board of Supervisors approved a $51.5 million budget with a personal property and real estate tax increase.

The motion to approve the budget passed Tuesday with a 5 to 1 vote. County Seat Supervisor Gary Walker cast the only no vote.

The motion to set the tax levies passed 5 to 1. Aspen/Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore voted no.
Based on the real property tax rate and changes in other revenues, the total budget for the county will exceed last years by 5 percent.

With the vote, personal property rates are now $3.95 per $100 of assessed value. The difference between this new rate and the old rate of $3.75 per $100 of assessed value is 20 cents per $100.
Real Estate and mobile home tax levies are now set at 62 cents per $100 assessed value compared to last year’s 53 cents.

Before the vote and during the board’s public comment period, Chairman Garland Hamlett Jr. read a letter from citizen Terry Ramsey concerning the budget and how it was advertised.

“In reviewing the Board Packet, I noticed the source of the estimated revenue is not disclosed for the Capital Project Fund. Other funds disclose the revenue source,” Ramsey noted in his letter. “I then reviewed the County’s newspaper advertisement for the FY 2020 budget and observed that the Capital Project Fund revenue source is not disclosed. My understanding is the County plans to borrow over $7 million for capital projects. I cannot find where the advertised budget discloses borrowings.

I believe the following sentence in § 15.2-2503 of the Code of Virginia requires the budget to disclose all estimated borrowings.”

In an email, County Administrator Dan Witt explained how the budget was advertised. “As stated in the ad published for advertising the budget, the detailed budget can be viewed online, or a copy viewed at my office. The ad is not intended to be a ‘detail’ but an ‘overview’ of the budget as it would be much too costly to advertise a complete detailed budget.”

As such, Witt went on to say that the detailed budget complies with the State Code § 15.2-2503.

In another email, Ramsey explained that, “However, I believe in the spirit of full transparency and compliance something as important as a $7 million borrowing should have been clear in the advertised budget rather than buried in fine print in the detailed budget. It would have only taken one more line, and such disclosure would have been consistent with the budget showing revenue by the source in General and other funds. Surely a line would not have cost much if any more,” he said.

When it came time for the vote to approve the county budget, Wylliesburg/RedOak Supervisor Kay Pierantoni was the first to speak up. “We have to approve the budget. It has to be approved by June 30,” she said. “I’m very sad about this budget, and I will say our county administrator has worked hard on it and we’ve worked hard on it, but I’m not satisfied with what we’ve got. We need to work at it harder next year, and throughout the year we need to be saving money every time we can, but really, we have no option at this time but to approve it.”

Pierantoni also pointed out that the county was doing well when it came to school funding. “We’re doing excellent by our kids,” she added.

Supervisor Donna Fore, who represents the Aspen/Phenix District asked for some clarification on the Capital Project Fund listed on the budget at $8,046,550. Fore said that the amount was showing as both a revenue and expenditure. “Which is it, why is it listed at both places … It’s confusing as hell,” she said.

County Administrator, Witt then pointed out that the county is required to show a balanced budget. “Where you have a revenue, you have to show an expenditure of that revenue,” he explained. “If you look at the general fund you will see $16.9 million in revenue and then you will see $16.9 million in expenditures. That’s how you balance the budget.”

Fore said she wished there was some type of notation explaining such.

Supervisor Fore also wanted to know how much of the budget funds are borrowed monies.

According to Witt, the only proposed borrowing on the budget is for $7.3 million for the school project.

“Just because this is our budget doesn’t mean it’s a blank check and we’re free to spend it, but if we don’t budget for it we can’t,” added Pierantoni.

Following the vote and Walker casting his no, Pierantoni spoke up to see if Walker wanted to explain why he voted the way he did. “We spent a lot of time on the budget, and we are a board that needs to work together, and I would like to give Mr. Walker an opportunity since he voted no to speak to that,” she said.

“I have expressed my opinion for the last year about borrowing money and spending money we don’t have,” Walker said. “I don’t think I need to expand on that. The board has voted, and I will vote for the levy because once we vote to spend money, we have to pay it back so the next vote I’ll be voting yes.”

When voting to set the tax levies, Fore cast the only no vote. Beforehand, Fore had expressed her concerns about reducing services for citizens while raising taxes when speaking of the possibility of reducing the operation times of the convenience centers. “I am very much opposed to increasing the public taxes and reducing the public services,” Fore said.