Supervisor against IOW tax increase

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, September 15, 2012

ISLE OF WIGHT—Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Al Casteen said the proposed 4-cent tax rate increase is not necessary.

Casteen also believes if approved, it would put the tax burden on the towns of Smithfield and Windsor.

The proposed tax increase will be the subject of a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at the courthouse in Isle of Wight.

Casteen, who represents the Smithfield District, will vote against raising the real estate tax rate from 65 cents to 69 cents. He believes the county has enough money to cover the $1.7 million shortfall created by a six percent drop in property reassessments.

“Tax rate increase take on a life of their own and are seldom removed,” Casteen said. “The people will end up being stuck with this increase.”

Casteen said the county received $947,000 in August from a deal with the state to conserve property along the Blackwater River. In addition, he said the county has $315,000 set aside to offset a loss in machinery and tools tax from the loss of the International Paper mill near Franklin as well as an additional $249,000 in taxes this year from the mill’s reopening.

Add to that about $300,000 still owed to the schools that won’t be paid back and an additional $344,000 that came from an error in the collection of recordation and wills taxes and Casteen said the county won’t need to raise taxes.

He also believes the proposal would result in a higher tax bill for residents in Windsor and Smithfield, who saw decreases in property values of three percent.

“Residents of the towns saw half the reduction so they’ll end up paying double,” he said. “Commercial property went up half a percent. Any rate increase will place a undo burden on the towns and owners of commercial property.”

Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney had no opinion on the issue, but has said the proposed increase would be revenue neutral and would actually result in residents paying around $3 less on tax bills.

For example, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $1,300 under the current tax rate and the 2010 assessed value; however, the same homeowner would pay $1,297 in taxes under the proposed rate and the 2012 assessed value.

Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin said with the money the county has already spent out of its unassigned funds that it would fiscally irresponsible to vote against the rate increase.

“I’m a farmer and I see what comes in and what goes out on my farm,” he said. “If I had the expense levels the county does I would have to look at ways to generate revenue. To entertain a tax cut would be irresponsible fiscally.”

Windsor District Supervisor Delores Darden couldn’t be reached for comment.