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Culpeper County adopts equalized real estate tax rate of 55 cents – starexponent.com

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The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 at its morning meeting Tuesday to adopt an “equalized” tax rate of 55 cents per every $100 of assessed value for fiscal year 2021-2022.

The board also unanimously adopted a $190.6 million fiscal year budget, starting July 1.

County Administrator John Egertson had proposed a 57-cent tax rate to generate an estimated $1.2 million to cover annual operations at the new Culpeper Technical Education Center opening in September.

But with the pandemic only starting to ease and economic challenges still prevalent for many families, a tax increase proved unpopular among elected officials or constituents.

Cedar Mountain Supervisor Jack Frazier voted against the 55-cent tax rate to go lower, 54-cents. Since the recent reassessment on residential properties was so much higher—a 12 to 14 percent increase in value—than commercial, industrial and agricultural property, homeowners will still pay more with the equalized rate, he said.

“We can frame it however we want to frame it, but that’s why I am trying to push for this other penny so it will lower their tax rate,” Frazier said. “Most of the tax burden has gone right to the residential homeowner.”

He proposed deferring some $800,000 in budget surplus funds the county was going to set aside for future road projects, at some point, with matching funds from VDOT, to the tax cut now.

Catalpa Supervisor Paul Bates made a motion for the equalized rate, seconded by Stevensburg Supervisor Bill Chase, via teleconference. Salem Supervisor Tom Underwood sided with Bates, saying the county is facing significant infrastructure needs and should save the money for roadwork.

Chairman Gary Deal concurred, pointing out that the Culpeper real estate tax rate has not risen above 55 cents at least since 1979. The county has the lowest tax rate by far around—adjoining Fauquier is 99 cents per every $100, he said, and even Madison is 71 cents, Deal said.

“I’m proud of where our tax rate is,” he said. Deal added it frustrates him to hear public comment of someone threatening to move their family away from Culpeper for the 2-cent tax increase, as was proposed. He said you’d have to move to southern parts of the state to find tax rates as low as here.

The red-hot real estate market in Culpeper is what is making taxes go up, said Jefferson Supervisor Brad Rosenberger. He said houses are going on the market for $650,000 and people are offering more right off the bat.

“The equalization rate, we’re doing our best to keep that down, would rather pay more taxes because my value went up rather than us raising that rate,” he said.

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Rosenberger said he hoped Culpeper’s low tax rate didn’t get broadcast too far and wide.

“Because they’re going to want to come here for 55 cents,” he said. “I hope we don’t have a lot of ramifications from that.”

The rate includes 7-cents for volunteer fire & rescue companies.

Deal fought—and won—to keep in the budget return of the Culpeper Quarterly newsletter, in its paper form. The mailer is sent to all county residents four times a year, containing county news.

The board cut the expense from the current year back in the spring of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, amid budget uncertainty. The newsletter shifted entirely online albeit to lower readership, according to county administration. (web.culpepercounty.gov/AboutCulpeper/CulpeperQuarterly). But in the past year, the county, like others nationwide, has seen a windfall of state and federal pandemic funding, resulting in a surplus budget.

When Underwood led a recent effort to again remove the $38,000 annual newsletter expense from the budget and keep it strictly online from here on out, it resulted in phone calls from unhappy constituents, Deal said.

“A lot of our seniors, our elderly don’t have computers,” he said, “It was how they kept up with what going on in the county, parks and recreation, events in our community.”

Deal said it will also be used to promote fundraising for the new fieldhouse and volunteer fire and rescue. Rosenberger supported keeping the paper newsletter and so did Chase.

“I’ve had nothing but positive comments about the paper, all ages. I think it should be put back in also,” Chase said.

Underwood went along with it so long as residents could “opt out” online of receiving the paper version of the Culpeper Quarterly.

East Fairfax Supervisor Kathy Campbell supported downsizing the publication, making the paper available at the library, and not mailing it out to every resident.

“Print is going out,” she said.

Chase said disabled people cannot necessarily get to the library to pick up their copy, so it has to remain a mailer. Bates agreed, saying he didn’t realize how much of a big deal the publication was until they got rid of it.

He said he had been inundated by calls from mostly seniors saying that they rely on the publication for county information.

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