CACI's state of the city report - one of a series of five
1st 2 conclusions: Council is responsible for real estate tax hikes; without reduction in government spending there can be no tax relief

Citizens Actions Coalition, Inc. (CACI) is developing a “State of the City of Virginia Beach” series of public discussions.  At the invitation of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance, CACI held the kickoff session Saturday October the 25th.   This meeting, the first of five sessions, concerned real estate assessments and taxes and answered the question “Is there any relief from our already burdensome real estate taxes?” 

CACI pointed out that state law allows Virginia Beach to assess real estate every two years.  We reminded the audience (as if anyone really needed to be reminded) that our city council has assessed real estate each and every year for as long as we can remember.  Then CACI asked the question, “Because council assessed all property this past year, does that mean we get a bye next year?”   After the derisive laughter subsided, every one agreed that if there were an assessment next year, it would be because the City Council of Virginia Beach wants it. 

After each assessment, council must review the real estate tax rate.  CACI quoted state law to show that the increase in real estate taxes may not exceed 1% over the previous year. That is, if the current tax rate applied to the new assessment shows an increase greater than 1% over last year the council MUST reduce the rate so that the increase is less than 1%. Council, as directed by state law, computed (last May) a lowered rate of approximately $1.15 down from $1.22.   

The law also states that Council must conduct a public hearing and then is free to set the real estate tax rate as council decides. (The public hearings were held in April and May prior to voting on the new budget and tax rate.) After the public hearings, council had a number of options.  Our city council could have reduced the tax rate even more, maintained the lowered rate, or set the rate to any value. Council voted to increase the real estate tax rate to $1.22.  CACI emphasized that by voting to increase the real estate tax rate our council is clearly responsible for the increase in your real estate taxes. 

CACI reviewed four issues to help determine the possibility of any relief from continuing real estate tax increases.  First, the city five year forecast shows expenditures increasing over the years with the operating budget reaching $1.5 billion by 2008 up from the current $1.3 billion. Second, there is no population growth to share the pain. Third, city debt is increasing. Fourth, council is pushing ahead with the very expensive major projects. 

CACI demonstrated two very important conclusions: One, our city council and only our city council is responsible for the increase in our real estate taxes. Two, without a reduction in spending there is NO RELIEF from our already burdensome real estate taxes.  

So taxpayer, what are you going to do about it?

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