Council votes no to real estate tax

No new real estate taxes for town residents.

The Culpeper Town Council adopted its budget for fiscal year 2013 at its regular June 12 meeting, but it did not contain a one cent per $100 of assessed valuation property tax increase that had originally been advertised.

The $60.3 million budget that goes into effect July 1 will include a five percent increase in the electric rate and an increase in the sewer rate between seven and nine percent depending on usage.

The budget includes $46.1 million in operating expenses and $14.1 million for capital improvements.

By a vote of 6-3 the council nixed the real estate tax increase from 13 to 14 cents and did not establish a “lock box” that would have set aside the approximately $116,000 in new revenue expected from the tax increase. That money was to be used for the proposed “inner loop” connector road.

Councilman David Lochridge made a motion to approve the budget but not the tax increase. Councilman Jim Risner then wondered aloud where the $120,000 would come from if there was no tax increase.

Lochridge said he felt that estimates for the cost of upcoming capital improvement projects were on the high side and that the money to pay for the $120,000 in a lock box could come from budget funds not used there.

Councilman Dan Boring noted that the council had earlier approved offering health insurance to council members.

“Moments ago…we added potentially another $40,000 to $50,000 to the budget with the health insurance proposal,” he said. “Where is that coming from?”

Boring did not receive an answer to his question at the meeting.

“This council has a history of not doing capital improvement projects until things fall apart,” Risner said. “After all the planning [on the budget] are we going to, at the 11th hour, say that we hope enough money comes in from the boundary line adjustment [with the county July 1] or from extra CIP money? Otherwise the town manager would have to find [the $120,000] somewhere in the budget.”

Vice Mayor Billy Yowell said he felt there could be an agreement among council members if the extra money did come in that it could be put in a lock box at that time.

“I would prefer that there be no tax increase,” he said. “We’re not guaranteed the $120,000, but if we do get it we can put it away then.”

The final vote found Risner, Boring and Ben Phillips voting against keeping the tax rate level which was part of a motion also eliminating the lock box.

The utility rate increases passed 5-4 over the objections of Phillips. Bobby Ryan, Frank Reaves and Mike Olinger.

In other business the town:

Heard a request from Brian Duncan, director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board, for the town to fund $125,000 toward a fund raising goal of $750,0000 in renovations to the Senior Center. The renovations would allow the center to help eliminate a waiting list of 30 to 40 people, according to manager Gladys Williams. The center provides hot meals, social time and recreation to area seniors.
Indefinitely halted demolition of the old police department facility on Cameron Street with an eye toward using the building as a possible arts center.
Agreed to accept bids on a piece of vacant property adjacent to Antioch Baptist Church for which the town has no plans. The church is considering bidding on the property for possible use as church parking.
The next regular meeting of the town council is scheduled for July 10.