My story in today’s Floyd Press reports on the County Board of Supervisors approving the five-cent increase in property tax to help fund a $34 million budget for fiscal 2016, which starts on July 1.
The approval comes with the first-ever vote on a tax increase by Indian Valley Supervisor Fred Gerald, who noted that this was a time that had to come for the financially-distressed county.
Just a week earlier, 20 out of 22 speakers at a public hearing on the proposed tax increase supported the hike and praised the board to taking the step.
Yes, many of the speakers were teachers and officials of the county school system, who needed the increase to buy new school buses and restore previously-cut programs and staff positions.
Others were parents with kids in the schools but others were simply residents who recognized that the last tax increase four years ago was too long ago to keep up with the demands of a strained county budget that receives less and less support from state and federal tax dollars.
Amy and I think about our last payment in half-year taxes to Arlington County in 2004, the year we sold our two-bedroom condo in a high-rise and bought our present home in Floyd County. We paid three-times the amount in taxes to Arlington County on just over 1,300 square of living without a yard or surrounding countryside.
Now we have more than three-times the square footage and acres of property here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and, even with the new 55-cents per hundred tax rate, will cost us less than one-third in property taxes.
We supported the tax increase, even with no kids in schools. We enjoy protections of a professional sheriff’s department, a well-regarded rescue squad and a county government that attempts to serve the needs of an evolving and increasingly diverse county.
In our opinion, the county accomplishes far more with its tax dollars than the Commonwealth of Agenda, where the Virginia Department of Transportation has done nothing to fix the ever-expanding and suspension-destroying mob of potholes on Sandy Flats Road near our home or on too many other secondary roads.
Yes, as a newspaperman, it is my job to question the actions of public officials and I have been critical of the board of supervisors when I felt they needed criticism but their actions on the new budget, I believe, are worthy of both praise and support.
At the public hearing last week, Floyd County High School principal Tony Diebler said that he, as a self-professed conservative, had to learn that anger at wasteful spending by the federal government must be separated for efforts by local governments to make do with what little they have to serve residents.
“I truly hate the excessive taxes that I pay to the federal government,” Deibler said. “Sometimes we conservatives confuse federal taxes with ‘all taxes.’ Floyd County is a special place and Floyd County public schools have a potential for greatness.”
“It’s clear…obvious more like it…that our county must combat the rising costs that are facing every department and I applaud you for taking the difficult first step,” said Jessica Cromer, principal at Check Elementary School. “While we cannot please everyone, investing in the future of Floyd County is always a good decision.”
In June, we will write out a check to pay for the first half of the new tax rate to country treasurer Missy Keith.
It will be money well spent.