The County Office Building had the air of a festival yesterday, with pizza and root beer, signs and stickers, WINA AM radio set up with a live broadcast on the front steps. But it wasn’t the annual county fair—no, it was the annual county budget hearing that had drawn the masses to Lane Auditorium.
With more than 200 in attendance, the anti-tax crowd was predominant. But a sizeable contingent was also present asking the county Board of Supervisors to fully fund schools and affordable housing.
More than 200 people crowded the venue, roughly split into two groups. The Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance (ATTA), led by former county GOP chairman Keith Drake, bore neon orange signs proclaiming “68¢”, while a contingent of Albemarle County Public School supporters wore stickers to show their support for fully funding schools.
They were there to let the Board of Supervisors know what they thought. And once the public hearing got underway, the night quickly became a “stand up” routine. A speaker would get to the podium, and as soon as she showed she was asking for a lower tax rate, up would rise the anti-tax contingent—about 75 percent of the crowd—holding the orange signs. The next speaker would speak; as soon as he showed he supported the higher tax rate to fund affordable housing or county schools, up would rise the pro-funding crowd. And up and down and up and down, as the accordion of tax talk carried through the night.
Clichés abounded—the county supervisors were putting “the cart before the horse” if they voted for a higher tax rate; they were “penny wise and pound foolish” if they opted not to fund schools and infrastructure.
The highlight of the early evening was Theresi Province, a woman brave enough to step to the podium and implore the Board of Supervisors, “Please raise my taxes.” Murmurs rippled through the predominantly anti-tax audience until Chairman Ken Boyd had to tap the gavel.
The Board of Supervisors wasn’t actually voting on a real estate tax rate last night. The current rate is 68 cents for every $100 of assessed value. The county is considering a new tax rate of up to 71 cents. Because assessments were basically flat on average this year, the owner of a $300,000 home is looking at a $90 tax increase if the Board adopts 71 cents. Last year, Supervisor David Slutzky said that last year’s effective tax increase amounted to no more than “a beer and a pizza” a month—hence ATTA provided the root beer and pizza (the county school supporters had their own pizza in an adjoining room).
The supes will decide next Wednesday, probably opting for either 70 or 71 cents.
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