Tax, rate increases proposed in Chase City

For the first time in almost a decade, citizens in Chase City are looking at increases in personal property, real estate and mobile home tax rates.
The tax rate for real estate and mobile homes is proposed to increase by a penny, from the current $0.39 to $0.40, while personal property rates are proposed to see a more steep increase from the current $1.21 to $1.65, a hike of $0.44.
A small increase in the minimum water-sewer-trash bill from $56.10 to $57 is also proposed. According to Town Manager Angela Lawrence, although the actual Roanoke River Service Authority rates have remained the same, the hike is the result of a slight increase in water used in town.
Lawrence, completing her first budget since taking over the post of town manager late last year after the death of 30-year Town Manager Rickey Reese, said she had hoped to avoid any increases this year and had worked the budget several ways in an attempt to do so. Unfortunately, she said, due to decreasing population and several unavoidable expenses, it had not been possible.
If approved, this would represent the first tax increase imposed in Chase City in nine years.
The proposed general fund budget for the coming year is $2.2 million, and increase of about $60,000 over last fiscal year, while the total draft budget is $3.2 million, a 2.6 percent increase over last fiscal year.
Chase City Treasurer Virginia Gray defended the budget, reminding citizens to remember how long it has been since the town has had any increases.
“I think that shows how hard everyone has tried to avoid increases,” she said.
Lawrence agreed, mentioning how long it had been since the town shop or police department have purchased new vehicles.
“The staff has always been very frugal and conscientious,” said Lawrence. “I think it’s a very conservative budget, very comparable to what we’ve had in the past.”
Under the proposed budget, town employees will see a slight raise this year of 3 percent across the board. This increase is consistent with raises given by other localities in the region. The town notes that department heads prefer across-the-board increases to cost-of-living and merit increases.
Retirement insurance, FICA and disability insurance have been adjusted to reflect the salary increases. Health insurance costs went up slightly with a 1.2 percent hike across-the-board.
Also, as 2018 is an election year, $1,800 has been added to the budget for electoral board and officials.
The budget also includes $12,000 for the Chase City Police Department to match an expected grant for two new vehicles for the department.
For the Chase City Volunteer Fire Department, the budget includes a small hike for maintenance and conversion to LED lighting and an added security system.
Not all items are proposed to go up this year.
Fuel costs have been dropped for the coming year to reflect lower prices. The town’s annual donation to the Chase City Rescue Squad has been decreased from $3,000 to $1,500.
The town is concerned that the elimination of vehicle decal sales next year could make tax revenue slower to come in. Under the old decal system, taxes were required to be paid before vehicle decals were issued.
Lawrence confirmed that there are concerns about finding a way to encourage citizens to pay their taxes in a timely fashion.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” said Lawrence. “We’re going to work with the county as best we can.”
Gray agreed that localities are looking at different options.
“South Hill tried the cigarette tax, but there was a lot of opposition. Everybody is looking for a substitute for the decals. We’re hoping the increase in tax rates will offset the lack from decal sales,” she added.