NEW KENT — The New Kent County Board of Supervisors has scrapped a proposal to raise the real estate tax rate by eliminating new positions proposed in the county budget.
The board voted 3-2 on April 25 to maintain the rate of 67 cents per $100 of assessed value in the county’s next budget.
County Administrator Rodney Hathaway had recommended a rate of 69 cents to fund growth in the county government. However, the proposed raise alarmed some supervisors, so Hathaway submitted a proposed amendment for a flat rate during the April 25 board work session. The change entailed cuts of $821,510 from the original budget plan.
“The big ticket items were the elimination of all new positions for (the 2024 fiscal year) and all proposed position upgrades for FY24. We were able to maintain the 2% cost of living increase as well as the additional increase based on years of service,” Hathaway said.
The new positions proposed by Hathaway included a full-time county attorney, a school resource officer for Quinton Elementary School, two new sheriff’s deputies, two firefighters, and a ground maintenance technician for the upkeep of Makemie Woods. The county will use money from Colonial Downs to pay for two one-time expenditures.
“This is not an easy decision and I’m not backing away from my original recommendation of an additional 2 cents on the real estate rate,” Hathaway said. He pointed out he worked with departments to identify needs since last September.
Ron Stiers, one of the supervisors who opposed the real estate tax raise, called for the county to use money from the Colonial Downs racetrack to offset the personnel cuts. Stiers expressed concern over a $55,000 cut in overtime for the sheriff’s department.
Colonial Downs-derived money has largely been used for capital projects in the past. John Lockwood warned against its use to bail out the general fund as setting a “very dangerous precedent.”
“We either support it the way we are supposed to with a tax increase or we don’t do the things that need to be done,” Lockwood said.
Stiers said more money will come in over the next few years as three school projects are paid off, freeing up $897,000 a year in debt service.
Hathaway sounded a note of caution saying he plans to use the savings toward a new middle school. “Middle schools right now are running at $80 million,” he said.
Vice Chair Thomas Evelyn supported the flat tax rate. “It’s tough on our citizens right now with inflation and rising costs,” he said.
His motion to support the amended tax levy was backed 3-2. Lockwood and Patricia Page backed the motion. Stiers and board Chair Thomas Tiller opposed it because they wanted the county to use Colonial Downs money to cushion the loss of new positions associated with a 67-cent rate.
David Macaulay, email@example.com