Fluvanna Debating a 20% Tax Increase

Fluvanna’s got an interesting tax situation, Bryan McKenzie wrote in yesterday’s Daily Progress. The county’s Board of Supervisors has long been dominated by conservatives, and has steadily lowered taxes relative to expenses as election after election has put in office people who promise to lower taxes. As a result, the county has put off some financial problems for years now, leaving them in a terrible financial situation, without enough money to pay their basic expenses. Now some surprising people are supporting a 20% tax increase. Fluvanna residents pay a property tax of 57¢ per $100 of assessed value (they most recently assessed properties in 2006), which isn’t enough to maintain basic services, make payments on their debts, repair buildings, etc. County staff recommends a rate increase to 75¢ (a 31% increase) to maintain service levels, but a budget committee cut those down to a level that requires a rate of 68¢.

Perhaps the most vocal supporter of this tax increase is the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Shaun Kenney, who is as conservative a Republican as you’re liable to find. (Disclaimer: He’s an old friend of mine.) Kenney is advocating what he regards as the real fiscally conservative solution: getting the county’s financial house in order, rather than going into further debt and leaving the problem for some future Board of Supervisors to deal with. A specific problem that he cites is that the county has a $0 budget for capital improvements, meaning that even basic maintenance to schools or replacing old fire trucks requires a tax increase to fund, something that anti-tax groups have successfully fought for years. If the tax rate remains level, Kenney says, Fluvanna will be forced to more than double the rate in four years, to $1.22, to meet their core obligations. Kenney’s zest for tackling this problem has the county’s farthest-right Republicans upset (folks who should be Kenney’s base), notably the Fluvanna Taxpayers Association, a four-year-old organization that opposes any tax increase to fund fixing schools or paying debts.

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors is holding a hearing about this on Wednesday, which is sure to be lively. This is a showdown worth keeping an eye on, because it’s a perfect encapsulation of a rift in the Republican Party on both a state and a national level, one that divides people who oppose all taxes on principle, regardless of the consequences (e.g., the Tea Party), from those who support fiscally conservative policies (which may include raising taxes, as necessary). Consider the Fluvanna dispute a preview of what’s to come on a larger scale over the next year or two.

11 thoughts on “Fluvanna Debating a 20% Tax Increase”

  1. “most recently assessed properties in 2006”.
    Read that again. Once again won’t hurt. Go ahead.
    Then cogitate a little about the scam Fluvanna has been carrying out. From one of the lowest tax rates in the area to targeting the highest rate in just a few short years. And they’re still taxing on prices way before the housing crash.And the county doesn’t have much to offer unless you’ve got an inheritance or a large swath of land. Does anyone want to send their kids to Palmyra schools?

    Many properties sold at 1/2 million dollars and have lost real market value in the order of 30-35%. They’re in the middle of nowhere. But they’re still taxed on the full jacked up assessment ‘values’.

    It’s really convenient to have a charter or whatnot that only requires assessments every 7 years. Fluvanna is gearing up to dig in, and milk whoever fell for the slightly lower prices.

  2. So what, if the properties were most recently assessed in 2006? As long as the relative differences between properties remains in proportion, it doesn’t matter. The county’s budgetary needs are what they are. They can have a lower tax rate on higher property values, or they can have a higher tax rate on lower property values. Who cares?

    Residents can debate the total tax needs all the want, but the date of assessments strikes me as just an irrelevant diversion.

  3. Property will be reassessed in Fluvanna this year, and that’s a major assumption built into this proposed tax rate. The Board assumes that the tax base will drop by 20% to 50%, so the rate will have to be increased just to bring in the same amount of revenue. Because of the reassessment, I don’t think the average homeowner will end up paying much more than they already do after the increase. You are right to characterize this as a standoff between ideology and pragmatic governance.

    But, between gas prices, water rate increases, and now this, times are certainly hard in Fluvanna. I sympathize with those who thought they were getting a deal.

  4. Best of luck to Shaun on this; I’d love to see a rise in pragmatic fiscal conservatism, the kind that recognizes the responsibility of citizens to contribute to the general public kitty in order to pay for those things that individuals can’t buy for themselves at Home Depot (like roads, school buildings, etc.).

  5. * Transparency from a gubment is never an irrelevant diversion.
    * Fluvanna is notorious for not making things readily available for analysis. They update some of their records for online public review only years later. They also appear to have back office deals with some folks (under-assessed values) and over-assessed for others.
    * I know real cases of people buying homes in 2008 and 2009 and were assessed well above the purchase price. So, the county was subjectively and secretively ‘adjusting’ for values prior to the home-bust?
    * Is part of their budgetary costs to sue people for having a Blog using the county’s crest? What other expenditures are frivolous and self-serving for officials?

  6. The rate increase, combined with lower home values, plus the fact that you have to have some services, means that most in Fluvanna will not be paying much more than current.

    Of course, they are saving a lot of money with the empty managerial seats from those recently fired because they gave themselves pay raises with….leftover budget money.

    Make of that what you will.

  7. A big percentage of Fluvanna’s population as well as a good chunk of its wealth reside in one big gated community where they feel like they already pay for the services they need and use through HOA fees. Plus a good percentage of that group is either retired and on a fixed income and/or has already fled the high property taxes of the northeast. Many of them feel like they don’t get or want anything from their county government, especially if they don’t have kids in the public system. Be interesting to see how they affect the final decision in all this.

  8. If I’m reading their budget documents correctly, from 2000 to 2010, the assessed value of real estate in Fluvanna County increased by about 200%. The budget increased by about the same amount, from around $20M then to about $60M today.

    In the same period, the county’s population increased by a grand total of 28%.

    On what Bizarro World is a budget that TRIPLES over the course of a decade *fiscal conservatism*?

    “Lowered taxes relative to expenses” is an extremely dishonest way to describe this situation. “Allowed spending to run absolutely wild like a kid in a candy store without the slightest sense of restraint or responsibility, and didn’t raise taxes by quite the same insanely profligate amount” is more like it. Sure, the rate per dollar of assessed value may have fallen, but that rate doesn’t exist in a vacuum: when assessed values more than triple, the amount of taxes a taxpayer in any given house pays is going to go through the roof regardless of any comparatively insignificant tinkering with nominal rates. That’s taxes going up, not down. That taxpayer’s income certainly didn’t triple in the same period.

    Fluvanna got itself into trouble the same way every other local government that’s now in trouble got that way, and for that matter the same way a lot of homeowners got into trouble. It saw unsupportable expansion and bloated prices from the housing bubble, took those numbers on their face because they made everyone happy and apparently didn’t remotely consider that what went up might possibly come back down, and promptly blew all the money it could possibly squeeze out of those absurdly inflated values on – what, exactly? Counties don’t buy sports cars and entertainment centers, so what exactly is Fluvanna *doing* with $40 million dollars it apparently had no need for in 2000?

    And now it seems entirely beyond the imagination of some government officials and a lot of folks here that they might possibly reduce spending down to some reasonable proportion of what it was a decade ago – say, to only DOUBLE the amount per resident, rather than the 2 1/2 times it is today – and make ends meet that way.

    Among the behemoth government set “fiscal conservatism” has become nothing more than code for taxes spiraling out of control and expenditures expanding that much more rapidly. This is absurdity. Fluvanna County does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. A spending-like-a-drunk-on-an-epic-bender-walking-into-the-liquor-store-with-$200-in-his-pocket problem. Raising tax rates will not even begin to address this problem. Real estate values are not going back to 2006 levels anytime soon and may not have even stopped dropping. The budget based on those insanely inflated numbers is not sustainable and the only possible solution is going to involve cutting spending back to something remotely resembling pre-bubble levels per resident. Keeping spending somewhere remotely in line with real needs and sustainable revenues – THAT would be fiscal conservatism.

  9. Let’s see….Mozelle Booker wants to raise an additional $50k for charities; the County is broke; Mozelle has negotiated herselft a NEW PART TIME position with Fluvanna County as a “School Facilitator” which pays her $43,500 PLUS benefits. Of course her new part time position is contingent upon the Board of Supervisors approving the School budget and raising taxes 20%!

    Not to worry fellow Flucos, there is no conflict here which would preclude Mozelle from voting on the new tax rate. Nope, no conflict at all!!!!!

    Hey, if Mozelle wants to raise an additional $50k for charities, why not defund her new part time position at the School!!! Remember Mozelle, charity begins at home I guess we know which charity you are most interested in protecting!!!

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