Council lowers property tax plan to 22.5 cents
Fredericksburg City Council members on Tuesday lowered their estimated property tax needs for 2018 by a penny and a half. On Monday, Sept. 18, the council plans to adopt a 22.56-cent tax rate and its annual budget of $47.6 million.
Thanks to rising valuations, the tax rate is one cent higher than its effective tax rate (the rate at which the city would raise the same amount of revenue). The city also plans to seek another 3 to 3.5 cents from voters in November for a $12.5-million parks bond to expand Oakcrest Park to include new baseball and soccer fields.
Council members voted unanimously after deferring to councilman Gary Neffendorf, a former city manager, who thought the city could find an additional $200,000 in savings from its current budget.
“We have made some cuts tonight and we have an additional $700,000 in reserves put away,” Neffendorf said. “So, I’m fine with [the lower rate].”
Mayor Linda Langerhans said she was initially hesitant to go with the lower rate, but trusted Neffendorf’s judgement. “I am concerned about the legislature and how their actions may affect municipal budgets,” she said.
The city also heard from four residents about how the tax burden in the face of rapidly rising valuations was affecting quality of life and even the ability to remain in town.
“My neighbor has a house that is 101 years old and went up $53,000 on the tax rolls this year,” said Jerry McCorkle. “What is going to happen is that people are going to be forced to leave their homes.”
Jeanette Hormuth said she had lived here 25 years and saw a 25 percent rise in her home valuation this year. “If things keep going that way, I’ll be one of those leaving,” Hormuth said. “I know from managing a household that there are always places to cut.”
Janet Cobb agreed, saying her tax burden rose $600 in the past year. “It gets harder to live here and it is harder to sustain for the middle class and the young people,” she said. “Look at us, the little people that are trying to remain here.”
The city’s budget will include a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for its employees and some additional merit pay increases up to 3 percent. The city also will add a code enforcement officer position, a special events coordinator, two water department positions and a sanitation crew position.
The city also will foot an additional $15,000 in operating expenses for the new animal shelter after the county declined to help fund a portion. The city had asked county commissioners to help since approximately one-third of the animals at the shelter come from outside the city limits.
Other large budget items include seven new police cars and a computer-aided dispatch system, which the city will share with the county.
Council members also approved the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau budget at $2.8 million. That budget is funded via the hotel occupancy tax from the city and county.