The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors voted, last week, to advertise the property tax rate at 95 cents per $100 of home assessed value. The rate advertised, as stated by state statute, can only be lowered when the Board votes on the budget on March 28. Combined with decreasing home assessments, Chesterfield homeowners in 2011 saved, on average, $800 a year on property taxes.
The Board was presented with a breakdown of revenue sources by the Department of Budget and Management as part of work sessions, which will take place over the coming weeks. Public Safety, Human Services and Community Development as well as Management Services presentations will lead to a public hearing on March 14 for input on tax rates, capital improvements and the general budget.
Board Chairman Dan Gecker said he didn’t think the board would cut expenses further this year. He said the board made some deep cuts on a whole host of things two budget cycles ago.
“Two years ago we were in the headlines on cuts. We did it early and deep,” Gecker said. “We don’t have to nickel and dime citizen services as this [economy] goes on.”
No board member was willing to talk about cutting services or increasing the property tax rate. “We have reason to be optimistic but I’m not willing to raise the tax rate at this time,” Gecker said.
Jim Holland, Dale district supervisor, who share a committee position with Gecker, agreed that he is satisfied with the status quo.
“This is a time to be careful, cautious and conservative,” Holland said. But he said he was concerned with possible “pitfalls.” He said that since assessments are down and citizens were already taking some setbacks, he thought it appropriate that the property tax rate remain at 95 cents.
Senior Budget Analyst C. Matt Harris took the board through revenue projections for the upcoming budget cycle and years beyond. His presentation represented some positive projections for coming years but, he said, it could be several years before the county saw much improvement.
“As we know real estate markets are not quite up to speed.” As far as housing values are concerned, Harris said that the department feels that 2011 was the low point and this year the decline will moderate a bit.
Harris said that Chesterfield is looking at about a 3.5 percent decline in property values for 2012 after experiencing a 5.3 percent reduction last year. And another small decline for the tax year 2013. But the county is starting to work back to zero and through the housing inventory. Harris said foreclosures are down almost 20 percent.
For the 2014 tax year, beginning in July of 2014, Chesterfield will see the overall property portfolio come back into the black and starting to show a little overall growth.
Commercial and construction values saw the better growth in January 2012 than in the last two years. New construction almost a 10 percent increase over prior years. Harris said Amazon and Stonebridge and some other projects in the pipeline are going to fuel the commercial side going forward. Those components will help to offset our modest housing values over the next few years.