Supervisors Set to Agree on Smaller Tax Increase

Cape Charles Wave

April 13, 2015

Northampton Board of Supervisors met April 6 to finalize work on the FY 2016 county budget. At the heart of the matter was a $322,706 increase in funds for the schools, a portion of which the Board of Supervisors hopes the School Board will allocate for a raise in teacher salaries.

On the county side, there was still a deficit of $135,288. The task for County Administrator Katie Nunez was to somehow balance this budget, and by the end of the meeting, have a workable document, built upon Board consensus, that could be voted Tuesday, April 14.

Despite all the things that different factions deem the most important, the money does not magically appear out of the mist — Northampton County has to scratch and work for every penny. What that means at budget time is that to give to one, you must take from the other. The metaphor robbing Peter to pay Paul is never as rich as at budget time.

Nunez and the Board worked into the evening, cutting, moving, and juggling wherever there was any wiggle room, yet when all was said and done, there was still a deficit of $152,000. With all alternatives seemingly exhausted, in order to balance the budget, the consensus was to raise personal property taxes by 5 cents per hundred dollars value, and real estate by .77 cents (about a $15 increase for a house valued at $200,000).

“This is where we need to be,” said Supervisor Granville Hogg. “Time to move forward.”

The tax increase did not come without some debate. “The citizens deserve a break,” announced a frustrated Supervisor Larry Trala [up for re-election in November]. “They deserve a balanced budget, without a tax increase.” A major point of contention for Trala was $45,000 being budgeted for roof repairs at the Government complex, an expense he felt could wait. “I don’t believe the roof is going to fall in if we wait.”

The roof at the complex was not the only one in need of repairs. The transfer station roof has been coming under attack from massive amounts of bird droppings. A $10,000 wire mesh to deter birds stayed in the budget.

Two new Sheriff’s Department vehicles totaling $81,670 also remained in the budget. It was the consensus among Board members that the Sheriff’s Department was one of the most critical, and productive in terms of revenue generation, so providing the best possible equipment to get the job done seemed prudent. Supervisor Oliver Bennett addressed Nunez: “This department brings in over $500,000 a year. Is there any way we can put more on the task? If you drive enough on [Route] 13, you will get a ticket. I have experienced that myself.”


On the chopping block is the plan to bill twice a year for real estate tax. The Board had earlier enacted the plan to try to reduce the burden of a full tax bill on December 5,  just before Christmas. The consensus of the Board was that since there had been a good bit of pushback against the early billing, they could eliminate it, and save over $22,000. The Board also noted that residents can still pay a portion of their taxes early to reduce the amount due in December. A public hearing April 27 will allow passage of a resolution to revert to the traditional December 5 due date.

Budget cuts can affect real people: two full-time positions are being looked at, one for elimination and one for conversion to part time, which would lower the deficit by $72,738. “I am not in favor of cutting jobs,” said Bennett. “Furloughs, or cuts . . . for many of our people, they are already working at the lower end of the job scale. We really can’t take much more away from them.”

The budget provides a 2% cost of living increase for county and social services employees.

Although $322,706 had been earmarked for the schools, Supervisor Hogg still had some questions. “I am for supporting the schools. I am for transportation, teachers, and maintenance, but not much for technology.” Hogg’s issue had to do with the necessity of using an estimated $100,000 on technology. “At some point they need to learn to write with a pen and pencil. They do have access to personal technology (phone, tablets, laptops, etc.) — our students do have opportunities there — it appears we have gone overboard with technology.”

Although the other members understood Hogg’s concern, the consensus was still to keep the full amount of school funding in the budget. “I agree,” said Hubbard. “But I am in favor of staying committed to the schools.”

Nunez said, “I am an advocate for the schools, but we must also keep in mind, that to fund an increase in schools puts a burden on the operations side of county services — those that may not have the heartstring appeal, but that are just as important and vital to the citizens of the county.”

There was some confusion regarding ingoing and outgoing funds, and Nunez spent time discussing the Transient Occupancy Tax on the cost of renting short-term lodging. The county tax is 5%, except within Cape Charles, where it is 2%. (Cape Charles has an additional 3.8 percent lodging tax.) Under state and county law, 45% of the Transient Occupancy Tax goes to the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission, with the remainder broken out to county tourism and related activities. The tax cannot be used to balance the budget.

Supervisor Hogg also had concerns about the county’s debt to the USDA incurred through sale of the USDA-funded STIP facility in Cape Charles. He asked whether the county’s $2 million capital fund could be used, but Nunez said no.



One Response to “Supervisors Set to Agree on Smaller Tax Increase”

  1. Danielle Campbell on April 15th, 2015 10:43 am

    I must say thanks to the Wave for making it much easier to keep up with news in our county. I for one truly appreciate it, as I do not generally buy a newspaper any longer. I get the majority of my news from some sort of “technology” — and with that I have to comment on our county’s budget decisions: two new vehicles for the sheriff’s office and then insisting our children need to learn how to write with a pen and pencil, insisting we have gone overboard with technology? Tell me what sense this makes. I am not attacking anyone, but I must relay my views on this. It is 2015 and our schools are far behind the rest of our state, let alone how they compare to our country as a whole. The percentage of children with access to modern technology in our county isn’t what you would think; we live in one of the poorest counties in Virginia. How then do these children have access to this technology other than in our schools? Our number one priority should be our FUTURE — the same people that one day will be sitting in the very same seats that our Supervisors and county leaders sit in. Not overpaid county employees, not new police cars, not bailing out poor business decisions by communities, not renovating dilapidated buildings. Make our future smarter, show them they are worth more than a new car. And please stop making Northampton County out to SOUND even more ignorant than it APPEARS to be.