County’s real estate assessments up

By: Adrienne Wallace | Email: Click Here
Posted: March 15, 2020 | 12:30 p.m.

Proposed tax rate of current 86 cents on real property will still create hike in cost of living

PRINCE GEORGE – Supervisor Floyd Brown, Jr. admits he’s torn about the tax rate this year as the county moves to adopt a budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

He said his phone has been ringing off the hook since recent assessments have jumped by 7.3 percent, coupled with new construction creating a total land book value increase of 8.3 percent. 

“This impacts a lot of people on fixed incomes, and it’s a Catch 22,” Brown said. “If you think of lowering the tax rate for those who are affected by the assessments than you don’t want that to impact what schools need if they need additional money. I’m really struggling with this.”

If County Administrator Percy Ashcraft’s proposed budget goes through with the current rate of 86 cents per $100 of assessed value on real estate property, taxpayers will be paying more.

The board would have to adopt an 80-cent tax rate to equalize the assessment increase, and that would be different than the administration’s recommendation. 

Deputy County Administrator Betsy Drewry explained that each penny of the tax rate counts for $280,000 coming into the county. If the equalization rate is passed, she said during Thursday night budget work session, it would be a loss of $1.68 million.

The total County Budget proposed is $129,748,493 which is 5.4 percent more than what was adopted for fiscal year 2020, and the General Fund revenue is budgeted at $61,720,893, an increase of $3,959,405 over the current year.

If that equalization rate doesn’t go through, real estate taxes would jump for the majority of county residents. 

And that’s not all that could be adding to the cost of living in Prince George County.

Under the proposed budget, utility and building permit fees would require residents to pay more. Utility fee increases are proposed at 3 percent for water and 1 percent for wastewater. If that passes, it will raise the average household bimonthly bill to $53.38 for water and $114.16 for wastewater. That will impact nearly 5,000 customers the department serves with 4,035 residential and 429 non residential. There are about 2,920 customers on both water and sewer and 235 water only and 1,310 sewer only customers. 

“Utility fee increases are necessary to continue to maintain water and sewer operations and to pay for needed capital maintenance and expansion,” Utilities Director and Engineer Frank Haltom said. 

The FY 2021 proposed budget includes $5,875,923 for projects related to the expansion of utilities and the repair or replacement of existing utility infrastructure. A portion of these projects will be paid from a borrowing ($5,178,752) that will be paid by water and sewer fees and $697,171 will be paid for within the operating budget. (See future report on Utility upgrades, work and expansions planned.)

Director of Development and Planning Julie Walton explained changes to the proposed Prince George Building Fee Schedule will assist in recovering operating costs and providing professional, high-quality services in a demanding building environment. 

“The proposed fee schedule is a comprehensive analysis of surrounding localities with similar demographics as Prince George County. Our goal is to align our recovery costs with current building trends while enforcing the building codes and regulations. The user fees collected will help to support departmental operations, therefore minimizing the support from the local tax base,” she said in a presentation last week.

An increase has been proposed to address the costs associated with permits that require additional staff time and copy charges. Administration fees, resubmittals will increase from $35 to $40 and re-inspection fees from $40 to $50.

An increase in the minimum/base fees for residential permits is planned to increase from $95 to $100.

Residential building permit fees could increase from 20 cents to 22 cents per finished square foot if the proposed budget is passed.

And residential trade permits will reflect an increase from 6 to 7 cents per finished square foot, while temporary electrical pole and demolition permits are in the flat fee category and will increase from $40 to $50.

As for commercial building permits, Walton said an increase from .75 percent to 1 percent in the valuation fees has been proposed. Also building permits (less than $5,000 in estimated costs) and auxiliary permits (less than $1,000 in estimated costs) will increase from $100 to $150. Prefabricated carports will increase from $70 to $100.

“These fees have been adjusted to correspond with the set fees in the Virginia Uniform State Building Code,” Walton noted.

Fire prevention inspections fee increases have been proposed to offset the cost associated with performing commercial inspections. Inspection fees based on total square footage of each structure will receive a $50 increase.

Real estate revenue is projected to have an increase from the current year. Other revenue sources including machine and tools taxes and meals taxes are also projected to increase.

Growth in the real estate revenue is projected at $1.9 million or 8.12 percent. Though the proposed budget contains no increase in the real estate tax rate it would still mean that most residents will be paying more. Commercial and industrial real estate parcel values represent 16.5 percent of assessed real property values, while residential, agricultural and multifamily assessments make up 83.5 percent.

Other increases in revenue include $520,000 in personal property, which is garnered from an increase in book values and proration that was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2014, Ashcraft explained in his budget. Mobile home collections are expected to remain steady with phased-in addition of units at Pine Ridge Mobile Home Park which began during Fiscal Year 2019 and will continue into through next fiscal year.

Meetings are set to follow with a tax rate decision on March 12 and budget work sessions on March 30 and April 9.

Two public hearings related to taxes including the increase in assessments and setting rates for real estate, personal property and machinery and tools is set for April 14. Budget approval is planned for May 12.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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