Bath Supervisors Urged To Lower One Tax And Raise Another
Warm Springs, VA – On Thursday night the Bath Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed county budget. Speakers encouraged the board to lower one tax while raising another. Currently Bath County has a meals tax of 1% and the board was urged to raise it to 4%, which is the maximum rate. That would help to offset a real estate tax increase. Speakers also asked the board to lower the real estate tax rate down to 46 cents, to offset higher real estate taxes, since property values have raised from the recent reassessment.
Bath County’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year is approximately $25.8 million dollars, which is up almost 2.9 million from this year. The proposed budget includes a 3% raise for county employees and Constitutional officers. The board is considering a 50 cent real estate tax rate, which will result in an 8.7% average increase in taxes. County revenues will increase this year due to the reassessment and a new higher sales assessment ratio applied to the tax rate for the pump storage station.
Bath County schools asked for an increase in their budget of around $775,000 but the county’s recommended increase for the schools is only half of that. School Superintendent Sue Hirsh spoke in favor of offering raises, saying that Bath teachers currently rank at the bottom of 132 school divisions in teacher compensation. Staff hasn’t had a raise in three years and Hirsh said with low salaries the school division will continue to have difficulty hiring and retaining teachers. Hirsh said the county’s provision of only half of the budget increase that the schools requested will require personnel cuts.
Supervisors Carol Hardbarger and Jon Trees agreed the board needs to go back and look at the budget again, including in it the meals tax at 4% and a lower real estate tax rate. Hardbarger said the tax rate probably can’t be lowered without cutting services. Trees also said he wasn’t sure the tax rate could be taken back down to 46 cents.
Board Chairman Richard Byrd wrapped up the public hearing portion of the meeting, saying he will work with County Administrator Bonnie Johnson to create a budget synopsis for the board’s review. He said he’ll develop three budgets; one at a tax rate of 50 cents, one at 48 cents and one at 46 cents. He said none of his proposals will take away anything from any department that is there presently, except for maybe something from a capital line item.
Byrd said by moving money around, the budget can support a 46 cent tax rate and still allow raises, be financially stable and keep a necessary reserve. Byrd will present the three options to board at the next budget meeting on April 28.