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Powhatan Board of Supervisors officially extends tax deadline to June 15

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POWHATAN – The Powhatan County Board of Supervisors has officially extended the deadline for the first half of the calendar year 2022 taxes until June 15.

The decision, which the board had discussed before but needed to solidify in a formal resolution, passed 3-2 in favor during a board workshop held April 11.

Chair Mike Byerly, who represents District 3; Steve McClung, District 2, and Karin Carmack, District 5, voted in favor of extending the deadline. David Williams, District 1, and Bill Cox, District 4, voted against.

The discussion that preceded the split vote initially was focused less on the extension and more on the reason the board had previously decided it was necessary.

When a miscalculation by county staff of what should be the fiscal year (FY) 2023 equalized real estate tax rate was recently brought to light, the board recognized that a formal public hearing would be necessary. That public hearing has been set for the board’s May 2 meeting.

The change came when it was brought to the county’s attention by the Virginia Department of Taxation that the county’s equalized tax rate is lower than the 79-cent rate the county had been projecting and McClung, Byerly and Carmack had been supporting. At 79 cents, the board would be holding to a plan stated in 2021 to keep a stable tax rate instead of fluctuating each year.

However, because of a 10.4% increase in the county’s total assessed value of real property, the equalized tax rate– the tax rate that would levy the same amount of real estate as last tax year when multiplied by the new total assessed value of real estate – is actually 75 cents. That means a 79-cent rate, if adopted, would actually represent a 4-cent tax increase.

As soon as the topic was raised in the April 11 workshop, Cox went on the offensive, calling the staff’s miscalculation “a major screw up” in terms of meeting its duty to calculate the tax rate and bringing up a complaint he has had for several weeks that the budget timeline is too compressed.

Cox also took issue with the way the county had advertised the public hearing, in particular saying wording that lists the proposed tax rate at 79 cents had not officially been voted on by the board.

County administrator Ned Smither said the county’s language in the advertisement, which will run in three issues of the Powhatan Today before the May 2 public hearing, was taken “straight out of state code.” County attorney Tom Lacheney agreed with the reasoning for the language.

Smither also argued it shows transparency by saying that rate would be a tax increase.

Williams said the deadline ahead is really tight, especially given new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software the treasurer’s office is using that has not been operating as effectively and as on schedule as the county wanted. Williams argued the budget process should begin earlier.

Carmack contradicted Williams’ complaints, saying the board had already acknowledged a new ERP system could come with bugs and the timeline is no different than it was in the past.

The county administrator’s job is to deal with the day-to-day operations and to give the supervisors guidance, which he has done, Carmack said. She added that if people felt the board needed to have more discussion on the budget, additional workshops could be scheduled.

Byerly reiterated that the budget had to be adopted by June 30, before the new fiscal year starts; the county had met its legal obligations for the timeline to advertise the public hearing for the tax rate, and the wording in the advertisement met state code standards.

Other business handled in the meeting included:

* The initial purpose of the workshop was for the board to meet with the Powhatan Economic Development Authority (EDA). While the EDA brought up seeking direction from the board, the bulk of the time the two groups spent together was focused on hearing a presentation from Joseph Hines, senior principal with the Timmons Group.

Hines talked about a few options the county might consider to encourage economic development. One was identifying properties in the county that have the highest probability of economic development and redevelopment success for bringing in business opportunities, thereby adding to the tax base and local job pool. Another was having the board consider taking a more proactive choice of acquiring and developing land to attract businesses, which would be a long-term investment in the county’s economic future, he said.

Cox raised several concerns, including the financial risk involved; the potential for unwanted development, and local government not getting involved in development.

Carmack and Byerly pointed out the board’s previous stance of wanting to lower residential taxes, which is most likely if the commercial tax base increases. Byerly talked about the need for open dialogue on ideas that might achieve that.

The board did not make any formal motions at the workshop on this issue or suggest moving forward with it.

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