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.