Supervisors balk on raising tax rate

by Madison White Franks

LANCASTER—Despite efforts by District 5 supervisor Robert Westbrook to raise revenue, Lancaster’s tax rates will likely remain the same for calendar year 2018.

On Tuesday, June 5, at an extension of the May 31 meeting, Westbrook insisted on discussing tax options to raise revenue to fund future county investments.

“We have not done the capital improvement plan. What is the 2019 request? $9,840,783. If we keep everything the way it is right now, how in the world are we going to be able to do anything with that?” asked Westbrook. “We are responsible for providing for this county the things we need to provide. One of the key things is a quality education. If we don’t set a tax rate that lets that happen, we are being irresponsible.”

“This is a great place to live and people ought to be willing to pay for it,” he added.

Westbrook proposed raising the real estate rate to $0.69 per $100 of assessed value, a 10-cent increase.

“If we were to set the real estate tax rate at the mean rate of all the counties in the state of Virginia, that would be 69 cents. That would be $2.5 million in increased revenue. I would think we could give adequate relief to anyone on the bottom of the list and still have a substantial amount of money which would pay for the capital improvement and schools that are coming,” said Westbrook. “We can’t keep existing on the cheap.”

Before related discussion, Westbrook provided a summary of the book Virginia Tax Rates 2017 to each supervisor, as well as examples of tax relief efforts used by other Virginia localities.

“Months ago I asked that each member of this board obtain a copy of this book so that we could have a discussion about our tax rates,” said Westbrook.

He said none of the supervisors had gotten the book. However, District 1 supervisor Jack Larson said he was wrong.

Commissioner of Revenue Marlon Savoy joined a related discussion regarding tax relief efforts.

She said the existing county ordinance states that dates to apply for tax relief are February 1 to April 30.

“The time for taxpayers to apply for tax relief has passed for the 2018 calendar year,” said Savoy…