Six Board of Supervisors members have a message for Del. Richard "Dick" Black (R-32) about House Bill 1519:
State imposed caps on real property tax rates "would be a disaster in a fast-growing county," said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run).
"Museums get funded by the state. We can't get it for education. We can't get it for roads, and we can't get it for tax relief," said Chairman Scott York (R-At large). "This board has started to reduce the need of the county by reducing housing over the next 20 years. We are paying [for] 13 years of decisions by previous boards."
Bottom line, "I'm a little bit angry," said Eleanore Towe (D-Blue Ridge).
In December 2002, Black introduced House Bill 1519 for the 2003 General Assembly Session to reduce the taxing authority of local governments through state-mandated caps. The caps would restrict the county to raising the tax rate by 105 percent of the revenues generated during the year before with two exceptions: to accommodate population growth and to allow for voter referendums.
THE PROPERTY TAX cap is the county's main tool for raising revenue, York said, adding that the state turned down the county's request to charge impact fees. "Unfortunately, Richmond hasn't been listening," he said.
The caps are "a back-door attempt to change what local government is doing," said James Burton (I-Mercer). "I wonder if Black would introduce legislation to restrict state spending."
Two board members voted against opposing the bill and other similar legislation, Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), and York abstained from the vote.
"This board has not brought down spending," Hiatt said, mentioning growth in the county's offices and increases in staffing levels. "The majority has allowed for large tax increases. ... You have had opportunity after opportunity to cut the budget."
"This is a response to out-of-control spending," Delgaudio said.
The board voted 8-1 opposing House Bill 1519 and any other legislation limiting the use of the Unrestricted Transient Occupancy Tax, which is 5 percent of lodging bills. Two percent of the tax is unrestricted, while the remaining 3 percent is restricted to promoting the tourism, travel and business that generate tourism in the county.
Through the bill, the restricted portion of the tax would be directed to the local tourism and visitors bureau and for direct promotion, such as through brochures and advertisements.
York said the county should do away with the program if the tax's use is further restricted. "Let's get out of this business," he said.
The General Assembly convened Jan. 8 for a session expected to last 45 days.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board:
* Awarded the first Farm Viability Program Grant Award to Patowmack Farm to help fund the installation of a commercial kitchen for farm fresh and organic produce. Beverley and Charles Billand of Lovettsville, who own the farm, will receive the $28,000 grant.
The Farm Viability Program aims to provide grants for innovative rural economic development enterprises and is "a boost to the rural economy," as Towe said.
The board voted 7-2 in favor of the grant award, with Delgaudio and Hiatt voting against.
* Re-elected Towe as vice-chairman of the board for 2003.
* Adjusted the meeting schedule to accommodate holidays and Election Day and set the rules of order for 2003. The new rules give the chairman flexibility in establishing the order of business when accommodating a large number of public speakers and time-certain items.