The Central Virginian

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Louisa real estate tax share drops, other taxes climb

Posted on Friday, March 31, 2017 at 8:00 am

The county hired dozens of career fire and EMS staff in the past decade, driving growth in the public safety budget. General government in this graphic includes all other county costs, including parks and recreation and health and welfare as well as administration.

The public will have a chance tell the board of supervisors what it thinks of the county’s proposed $105 million fiscal year 2018 budget at a hearing on April 3.

The budget process so far has been relatively quiet compared to the last few years, when the board raised taxes multiple times to pay for the James River Water Project and maintain essential government services.

With property assessments rising and the economy on the rebound, no tax hike is planned this time. The real estate rate is staying at 72 cents per $100 of value, while the rate on residents’ personal property is stable at $2.43 per $100 after a 53-cent increase last year.

Together with the tax on business personal property, which is assessed at $1.90 per $100, these rates account for 59 percent of all taxes paid to the county.

Property taxes assessed on Dominion Energy and other utilities account for another 27 percent of the tax pie. Sales tax, meals tax and taxes on businesses’ equipment and capital make up most of the rest.

The county also defines the motor vehicle license fee as a tax. A fee of $38.75 is charged for every vehicle in the county. The board increased the fee from $25 in 2015.

The county’s tax base of $65 million doesn’t come close to paying for the entire $105 million budget, which includes the public schools. The second-largest source of county revenue is the state and federal governments, at $35 million. Another $4 million comes from charges for services, including everything from dog tags to fees for parks and recreation programs.

The real estate tax accounts for 49 percent of county taxes, a number that has dropped from 51 percent five years ago. Louisa’s real estate tax rate is the second-lowest in Central Virginia, and assessments have been slow to recover from the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, increases in the personal property tax rate and the motor vehicle fee, which are assessed on residents whether or not they own real estate, have climbed by a combined four percent as a portion of overall tax revenue. Sales tax has also grown in the past five years as a share of revenue with new development at Zion Crossroads.

“Nobody wants to get a reputation for a real estate tax rate that is significantly higher than surrounding localities,” Neal Menkes, Virginia Municipal League fiscal policy director, said.

He said that on average in Virginia, real estate and personal property taxes together make up two-thirds of a locality’s tax revenue. In Louisa, the rate is far higher at 86 percent, when the taxes paid by Dominion and other utilities are included.

To read the entire story, see the March 30 edition of The Central Virginian.