10.5-cent tax increase could fund all Mathews requests

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 13, 2019 - 02:04 PM

This story has been corrected in paragraph four to reflect a mistake by the Gazette-Journal and a misstatement by a supervisor

Mathews supervisors learned Tuesday night that they could fund the operational budget requests of all departments, including the school system, with a 10.5-cent increase in the tax rate. 

The board was also given figures showing the impact that a 10-cent increase in the tax rate would have on properties with various assessments: $142.50 a year on a home worth $150,000, $237.50 on a $250,000 home, $475 on a $500,000 home, and $950 a year on a home assessed at $1 million.

Three supervisors voiced their support for a tax increase. Supervisor Amy Dubois said she would like to fully fund the budget, while the board’s vice chair, Edwina Casey, said she was in favor of giving the schools a 7 percent raise, as opposed to the 13 percent raise they have requested. A 7 percent raise for schools would cost the county an additional $735,000 annually, according to figures provided by County Administrator Mindy Conner. The cost to fully fund the schools’ request would be an additional $1.681 million.

Dubois did her own rate sheet to show how much it would cost the homeowner monthly to give the schools various levels of funding. She said that a 5 percent increase for teachers would cost the homeowner with a $100,000 home an additional $50 annually, or $4.17 a month. That increase would also result in a person with real estate valued at $1.5 million having to pay $9,375 more each year in taxes, or $781.25 monthly, she said. However, Dubois later said that she had misspoken, and that the $9,375 a year instead would be the total tax on a home valued at $1.5 million, while the increase would be just $750 per year, or $62.50 additional per month.

Supervisor Charles Ingram said he was looking at how much his own taxes would increase per year under an unspecified rate increase—$200. Dubois pointed out that such an increase would cost Ingram an additional $16 a month, and that “it would help get our schools and staff where they need to be.”

“I’m in favor of full funding of schools, salary increase for staff, and public safety,” said Dubois. “I want to make sure that families stay here and that we don’t have an outflux of teachers next year.”

“So everything you want us to do would only mean a 10.5-cent increase?” said Casey.

“Yes,” said Dubois.

But Ingram wasn’t having it, and he and Dubois had a bit of a back-and-forth, with each speaking over the other.

“We represent 8,500 people, not just the school system,” said Ingram. “I’m not against a raise, but as long as I’ve sat here, it happens every year that they’re here on our backs. And if you give them full funding every year they’d be after you every year.”

“We have a lot of room to make up for a lot of years that we didn’t,” said Dubois.

Ingram said that Mathews couldn’t be compared to places like Newport News and Gloucester, but Dubois said that even the rate being suggested “wouldn’t get us to comparison—just closer to keeping the families here.”

“Do you want to run the people out of Mathews?” said Ingram. “You go ahead and raise the taxes up like you want it.”

“I don’t think this would …” said Dubois, but she was interrupted by Ingram, who said, “Maybe not you. Maybe you got plenty of money.”

“A lot of people’s on a fixed income,” said Ingram, his voice rising. “I know every teacher and everybody that works for the county is looking for a raise. But let me tell you something. People from the county, they go away to college. Nobody put a rope around their neck to pull ’em back to Mathews. They wanted to come here to Mathews.” He said they knew what the county offered when they moved here, “but as soon as they get here, they’re not satisfied.”

“I think things are changing,” said Dubois. “I hear from a lot of citizens that they want choices to stay … they want us to raise taxes so they have the choice to stay.”

“I know we’re going to have to raise the taxes,” said Ingram.

“Well, how much do you recommend?” said Casey, and Ingram said he was in favor of a five-cent rate increase.

Supervisors’ chair G.C. Morrow said he thought it was too soon to decide on a rate—that the board needs to have a chance to look at capital improvements and other needs. He said that supervisors would look at the budget over the next few days and “there’s going to be things that hit you right between the eyes,” including determining how much the state will be giving the county in funding and how much a proposed capital improvement plan for the county will cost. Supervisors had earlier heard from Planning and Zoning Director Thomas Jenkins that the preliminary cost for capital improvements this year under a plan being developed by the planning commission would be around $2.287 million. But that figure includes over $1.178 million in grant funding for New Point Comfort Lighthouse, making the county’s contribution approximately $1.1 million.

“If the state says we’ve got to give 5 percent, then we’ve got to give 5 percent at least,” said Morrow. “I’m not against giving the schools more money either … but we’ve got to figure out how to do it to protect the citizens and protect the teachers.”

Conner said staff would provide more data to supervisors to consider, including a draft budget, before the next budget work session, which will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, in the historic courthouse. Supervisors are expected to set tax rates at that meeting, prior to the public hearing on the budget, which is scheduled for April 16.