Greene County residents will have the chance for public comment about tax rates for fiscal year 2021 and the proposed fiscal 2021 $64.5 million budget at Tuesday’s public hearing with the Board of Supervisors.
“We still are in a world of a lot of unknowns,” said Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor. “We’ve been paying careful attention to revenue since the beginning of the budget formation and we tried to be very conservative from the beginning. We still don’t have final state numbers and we have a sense that our transient occupancy revenue will be down—at least for the spring, but we’re still hopeful for a rebound later in the year.”
Supervisors authorized advertising an increase for real estate taxes by 2 cents, bringing that to 84 cents per $100 of assessed value. The proposed $64.5 million budget for fiscal year 2021 had set aside the new $420,000 revenue generated from the increased tax rate to be held in reserve, which could help with low dips in cash flow in the months prior to the two tax collection dates in June and December.
Citizens have asked the county if there would be an extension of tax due dates, but that is not possible, Taylor told the supervisors at the April 14 meeting.
“We have looked at those possibilities and advice from the county attorney on possibilities with that, but also we’ve had to look very hard at our revenues and revenue projections. And I must say that given the county’s cash flow position, we are simply not in a financial situation to have capacity to defer or extend the tax due dates or other obligations,” Taylor said.
He said this week that because most people use their mortgage firms to save for real estate taxes in an escrow account, he does not anticipate any issue with the June 5 deliverables. Greene County Treasurer Stephanie Deal agrees, but worries there could be an issue with the December collections if the quarantine continues too much longer.
“I’m always worried about cash flow,” she said. “I was worried about it before even with the spending that’s already in place, just because of the needs that are out there now. I don’t know that we can afford to pull back on it, because right now, I don’t have any way to project if we’re going to have a severe drop in revenue collections.”
Deal said they’ve based the budget on a high collection rate and while her office will continue to collect as much as possible she understands a lot of people will have a harder time if the shutdown continues.
“I don’t think that June is going to be our big hit. I think if this thing drags on, December might be the harder time for people. There are so many uncertainties,” she said.
Taylor said he anticipates still recommending the tax increase for the board, though supervisors will have the final say.
“With the latest information that we have or latest responses we have from (Rapidan Service Authority) on individual development plan submittals, we are feeling a propensity to move forward with the water improvement plan and the water improvement projects,” Taylor said. “That is heartening at one level to our local economy and local situation even to have those plan submittals continuing to be made and the plan reviewing process continuing to occur and we have seen something of a decline in the rate of such things. We are still seeing this in the area of community development and we’re continuing to provide service but that continuity is reinforcing the necessity for the water improvement project to proceed.”
That project requires a county engineer, or clerk of the works, to be hired with a salary higher than $100,000.
Taylor told the supervisors on April 14 there were no plans to suspend the facility fee on RSA water bills.
“We are wrapping up the engineering on the water system improvements. We will be moving to permitting for that work this summer, and we’re looking to borrow significant sums of money to proceed with the water supply project,” he said. “The facility fee is a fundamental building block of the revenue streams that will fuel that project and it is essential to afford the project that the facility fee be maintained. And I cannot, in good conscience recommend a suspension of the facility fee, even in these circumstances, given where we are for the project and the need to borrow for it in the near future.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Martin, Stanardsville, said he also feels the county will need to move forward this year on the water project.
“We are going to need more water and that’s not only for future use, but for current use, and so I agree with Mr. Taylor wholeheartedly that this needs to march on,” Martin said. “There is some good news and there are silver linings in that money is going to be cheap— as cheap as it’s ever been. And with talk of infrastructure projects, and no one is banking on this, but with talks of all the federal assistance that is going on, and simultaneous talks with infrastructure systems, what better time for a shovel-ready project in Greene County?”
Tuesday’s meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m., will be a virtual meeting and participants can use a video log-in or phone log-in. Those wishing to speak can email comments prior to the meeting or raise their hands during the meeting to speak including those using telephone log-in. Additional directions will be available on the county website at https://greenecountyva.gov.
Once the rate is set, Deal said, the bills will be mailed. While the treasurer’s office is currently closed to the public they are working and can take payment by phone. Additionally, bills may be mailed back in or dropped in the secure drop box outside of the office on Stanard Street in town. To reach the treasurer’s office, call (434) 985-1456 or (434) 985-5214.
Taylor added that while some other localities are extending tax dates or offering relief to businesses, it’s not something that Greene County can do.
“The reality in Greene County is that we never taxed people at a level to create the pool of hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to give such money away as relief in times such as these,” he said. “At the same time, I think there is still an optimistic vision for a rebound of much of what has been lost due to the COVID stay-at-home orders.”