The Board of Supervisors adopted the County Administrator’s recommended Fiscal Year 2024 budget and associated plans on April 12. While maintaining the County’s 81 cent real estate rate, the budget meets goals of funding market-competitive salaries for employees and making substantial investments in capital projects such as new schools and public safety facilities.
“The budget is probably the most important thing the Board does,” said Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis. The task was made more challenging, he said, by dramatic increases in the costs of projects and land and as well as the costs of providing personal property tax relief last fall and extending broadband throughout the County.
Many residents expressed concern about their home’s assessments in light of the strong housing market this year, but Davis noted that requests for services continue to rise.
“Come September, parents will go into classrooms and tell us that we still need to make upgrades there,” predicted Chickahominy District Supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek. “We had 17 open positions in our 9-1-1 center; we were perilously close to having a real public safety issue there. We hear the concerns from people but we have to pay these elevated costs too. All of the folks who play such an important role in delivering our services, they have families too, and if we don’t pay them a competitive wage they will go elsewhere.”
Ashland District Supervisor Faye Prichard noted that she has an elderly mother who lives on a very limited income, and she is very sensitive to the fact that “every single thing we do for our citizens costs money.”
“Every one of us has to decide what we can afford to spend,” Prichard said. “I’ve never heard a lot of, ‘give me less.’ The reality is we have a lot of things we need to do.”
The Board sought to lessen the impact on many residents by providing an abatement on real estate taxes and enhancing the tax relief for the elderly and disabled program.
The abatement will return a declared $4 million to real property owners, amounting to two cents on the County’s tax rate. This abatement will apply to the June 5 bill of all real property owners who owe taxes. The billing statement will show the amount due based on the property assessment then show the abatement as a credit, lowering the property owner’s total tax liability up front.
The change to the tax relief for the elderly and disabled program increases the income thresholds to allow more people to qualify for the program. That makes $450,000 in additional relief available to qualified residents.
At the Board’s request, staff also reported that the program could be further enhanced by increasing the maximum net worth allowed to $400,000 and the maximum income level allowed to $70,000. This proposal will be considered by the Board’s Finance Committee at its April 26 meeting, with a presentation to follow at the Board meeting later that day. The Board could then act on April 26 to authorize a public hearing on May 24 on the newly recommended enhancement.