Supervisor gives reason for favoring tax increase

Published 10:32 am Friday, September 28, 2012

I generally refrain from publicizing my opinion on Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors’ decisions out of respect to the decision made by the majority. In this instance I make an exception.

I believe the recent decision by our board to further send this year’s operating budget into a deeper deficit was an act of fiscal irresponsibility (“Isle of Wight supervisors vote 3-2 against raising taxes,” Sept. 23). At stake was never raising the tax burden on Isle of Wight citizens. The only issue was whether to maintain 2011 revenues.

Last spring, after attempting to reduce our budget by cutting requests for funding in all areas we felt feasible, the Board cut commitments from $100-plus million to $95 million. In seeking to fund those commitments, we included $300,000 from savings.

We found we were still short several million dollars. To attain the balanced budget required by state law, it was suggested we sell some county land for $1.2 million — half of its appraised value.

It did not sell. We were now short $1.2 million of the $95 million to which we were committed.

Since that time, the Board has unanimously approved funding these additional requests — $500,000 for Rural Rustic Road Projects, which involves matching funds for maintenance of our roads; $300,000 for the Windsor Pump Station; $166,000 for staffing at Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department; and $10,000 for Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department engine repair. This adds up to about $2.2 million in the red, and we are less than three months into the fiscal year.

This deficit is partially offset by some additional revenue. Conservation groups are refunding $950,000 of the $3 million the county borrowed to purchase the Blackwater Tract. Ideally, we would apply that to the original loan, but it seems unfeasible at this point.

The International Paper mill’s reopening will supply a further $250,000.

All said, that left our county, at noon on Sept. 20, $1 million short. By midnight, as a result of the Board vote, that number had surged back to $2.6 million.

And next year?

The very-welcome arrival of Green Mountain and the Franklin Fluff Plant will generate about $2 million in new tax revenue.

But here’s the kicker. Isle of Wight County is $162 million in debt. The payment on that debt alone will increase by $2 million next year, completely offsetting the additional revenue.

What’s more, the debt payment will increase by a further $2 million the year after, and another $2 million the next.

Just to maintain our present revenues and meet our obligations seems a daunting task. But to reduce them now is both reckless and irresponsible.

The Sept. 20 vote was the most critical of this Board to date. We failed to have the vision and courage to keep our county’s financial house in order.

REX ALPHIN represents the Carrsville District for the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors and can be reached at