Isle of Wight County adopts $78.79M budget
Published 4:23 pm Monday, May 13, 2019
No tax increases included for 2019-2020
[Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story concerning the county’s budget.]
ISLE OF WIGHT
No tax increases are included in Isle of Wight County’s $79.1 million budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, which the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt. The now-approved budget amounts to a roughly $4.6-million increase over the $74.46 million budget the Board adopted prior to the beginning of the current fiscal year, and an increase of roughly $547,000 over the $78.58 million budget County Administrator Randy Keaton had proposed to the Board on April 4.
This will be the sixth consecutive year, according to Keaton, that the county has gone without raising its real estate or personal property taxes. But even without a tax increase, the county is anticipating an additional $1.64 million in revenue from real estate taxes, resulting from the county’s reassessment of real property values. The reassessment was completed in March and the new valuations will take effect on July 1. Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that real property values rose an average of 4 percent since the county’s last reassessment, which was done in 2015.
Whether the additional $1.64 million in revenue actually materializes will depend on how many county residents appeal their new assessments. Administrative review hearings were held April 8 through 12 and are now closed, according to the county’s website. However, residents may still appeal to the county’s Board of Equalization by downloading the required application at http://www.co.isle-of-wight.va.us/commissioner-of-the-revenue/ and submitting the completed form by mail to P.O. Box 114, Isle of Wight, VA 23397, by fax to 356-9731 or by email to email@example.com. The Board of Equalization will meet for one year beginning July 1. The Code of Virginia also allows all property owners to appeal their reassessment through the Circuit Court system within four years of the effective date of the reassessment (July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023).
The Board of Supervisors may also choose to amend its budget at a later date to reduce the county’s real estate tax rate and make it revenue neutral. This means that the county would receive the same amount of revenue using the new assessments and a lower tax rate as it did this year using the current tax rate and assessments.
“I cannot confirm whether or not the Board will adjust the tax rate,” Robertson said. “The Board has discussed the budgetary impacts of reducing the rate and the impacts on taxpayers of maintaining the current real estate tax rate, but they have not indicated what they will do.”
Robertson added that the approved budget will remain balanced whether or not the $1.64 million in anticipated real estate tax revenue becomes available. He explained that these revenues are currently listed as coming from the county’s unassigned fund balance.
According to Keaton’s April 4 budget draft, the increase in anticipated revenue from the new real estate assessments is approximately $1,293,000 above the state-allowed 1 percent. Robertson explained that the Code of Virginia requires the county to advertise and hold a public hearing in order to keep any revenues above a 1-percent increase. This would be a separate public hearing from the one held on April 25.
As for water and sewer rates, these will increase by 5 percent, the goal of which, Keaton said, is to make the county’s Utility Fund more self-sustaining and less reliant on subsidies from the General Fund, while still being mindful of affordability. The county also plans to begin monthly billing for utilities come July 1 to help citizens with household budgeting.
Another difference between the county’s 2019-2020 adopted budget and its current budget for 2018-2019 is that state funding for aid to localities has been placed back into the individual volunteer fire department budgets. In 2018, the county had kept this funding as a single source rather than dividing it among the fire departments, and used it to purchase turnout gear in bulk that multiple departments needed. According to Keaton, another priority for the Association was equality among all departments for workers compensation and accident and sickness supplemental insurance. As such, all departments will now have the same coverage, with no increase in the overall cost to the county.
The county’s adopted budget also includes a 2-percent wage increase, which Keaton said would help keep the county from falling behind its peer jurisdictions in terms of competitive salaries. However, the county’s health insurance plan experienced an increase of 4.5 percent in total costs, according to the April 4 budget draft, which will result in employee premiums going up an average of 3 percent for the county’s base health plan come July 1.