The Patrick County Board of Supervisors took action in a 3-2 vote to assist with the increase in vehicle personal property tax values at its Monday, August 8 meeting.
The board voted to remove the Vehicle License Fee (VLF) and value vehicles at 90 percent of their value for fiscal year 2022-2023.
Commissioner of Revenue Cindy Kendrick said valuing vehicles at 90 percent of their projected value will allow vehicle values to go down. “That’s for county residents. I don’t know what the town’s going to do yet,” she said.
The VLF originally went into effect July 1, 2007, to replace the Patrick County windshield decals. Treasurer Sandra Stone said residents pay a $25 fee for regular vehicles and estimates the VLF generates more than $450,000 in revenue every year.
Stone said most taxpayers have disliked the VLF since the day it was implemented. “I was never for it to begin with, but the county didn’t want to lose the revenue. So, here’s an opportunity you’ll still be getting a pretty significant break,” she said.
Kendrick said lowering values to 90 percent and waiving the VLF this year will get close to what people paid last year. “So, you’d be at around a $100,000 difference if we did that,” she said.
The board also voted to set the Personal Property Tax Relief Act (PPTRA) at 30 percent. Kendrick said this percentage is similar to what county residents have received in the past. “That is the tax relief that you get from the state, and it fluctuates every year as values go up or down,” she said.
Clayton Kendrick, of the Mayo River District, said he voted against the proposal as it didn’t completely level any potential increases county residents would face. “Even though they removed the VLF, which I’m glad they did, and dropped the percentage on the increase on the other, it still left around a $100,000 increase. I thought it should have gone back to nothing,” he said.
Denise Stirewalt, of the Peter’s Creek District, declined to comment on the vote. “My opinion doesn’t matter,” she said. “It passed.”
Before the board acted, it also heard from several Patrick County residents.
Garland Burge, of the Dan River District, said he does not know why Patrick County has become like Washington, D.C. in terms of not living within its budget. “You give out bonuses and then talk about having to raise taxes,” he said. “You cut the fire and rescue, but you continue to add ambulances to your paid service here in Stuart.”
Burge said some of the surrounding counties give discounts to farmers for the large amounts of acreage they have to pay taxes on. “Our county does not even do that,” he said. “If you have to keep up with the rise in taxes, we’re going to have to start selling off land.” He added that some farmers will sell off their land and stop farming because of the cost.
Lynne Bogle, of the Mayo River District, said that while inflation hit everyone hard, it is especially difficult for those who are on a fixed income. “I understand the allure of a windfall based on artificially inflated vehicle prices, but many residents just can’t afford it, myself included,” she said.
She noted that in March, Gov. Youngkin signed legislation that would allow counties to lower the car tax rate below the property tax rate. “’With prices soaring on necessities families and individuals use every day, Virginians are in dire need of relief to their wallets,” she said, quoting Youngkin. “Many Virginians are struggling due to rising prices. Now, it’s up to local leaders across Virginia to step up and fight inflation with tax relief.”
Gwen Willock, of Howell Bottom, said she sat in the same chair in 2008 when the board held a tax meeting. “This room was packed with people, standing room only,” she said. “The hall was packed and people were outside standing, begging to come in because again, that year ya’ll were increasing the taxes above and beyond what the state required.”
That year, Willock said the board did exactly what it wanted to do. “We have a county, a place that we call home, raise our taxes to the point that we feel that we are put between a rock and a hard place,” she said.
Willock said 27 percent of the county is over the age of 65. “As you people that have been hired by us, we the people, to overlook and sort of take care of us, we would appreciate it if you would take into consideration and cut the budget so it’s not going to be an astronomical tax increase like it was in 2008,” she said.
Malcolm Roach said he moved to Patrick County from Philadelphia three and a half years ago to escape the tax burden. “The other day I was at Lowes Food, and I had to pay for part of the girl’s food in front of me because she couldn’t afford her groceries,” he said.
Roach believes there comes a time when morality has to step in. “To take the need of a county and its facilities over the need of its people is immoral,” he said. “God, his greatest command in the Bible is to love one another. So, we need to show love and take care of each other. We need to hold the line where it’s at.”
Roach also pointed out that Gov. Youngkin recently passed HB 1239 to give local governing bodies the authority to lower the tax rate and not give a tax increase. “You have the authority and everybody here, their budget at home is in your hands,” he said.
Rachel Martin, of Patrick Springs, said her grandfather bought a farm in Patrick County in 1950 with her family paying taxes on the farm since he passed away 20 years ago. “My husband is trying to farm, however with this economy it’s very difficult to start up a farm,” she said.
When she moved onto the farm about a year ago, taxes were a little lower, she said. “It has increased, and it sounds like the personal property may increase up to 40 percent. That is astronomical to me in a county with no jobs,” she said.
Martin added that she believes the county needs to do better and find other ways to make money instead of off the residents’ backs.
Olivia Cassell, of Stuart, said she lives alone, works two jobs while attending college, and makes roughly $1,800 each month while working two jobs with no financial assistance. “I can barely afford my bills and my groceries and starting soon I’ll have to drive to Radford three times a week,” she said.
While she would like to continue residing in the county after graduation, Cassell said she is unsure if she’ll be able to if the taxes continue to rise.
Charlie Bowman, of the Mayo River District, said county residents have to cut their home budgets when things get rough. “We have to do this every so often, and every few months you come up with a new form of tax, like this one, that puts us in another level of refiguring our budget,” he said.
Bowman said residents work 40-50 years before thinking about retirement and setting up plans for what they may leave their families. “Yet is seems like for the past few years our planning has to be changed because of the past and present board of supervisors spending for our county,” he said.
Bowman asked what the next taxes would be. “A mailbox tax, big mailboxes more taxes? How about a fall tax where we are taxed on the number of leaves in our yard,” he said.
Sarah Jordan, of the Peter’s Creek District, said she relates to a lot of the older people in the county and sees the hardship people that are on fixed incomes face. “I see it with my mom,” she said. “My dad passed away last year… now you have one check and you still got to figure out how you’re going to make ends meet.”
Jordan added that she’s seen both of her children leave the county as there are no jobs or opportunities for them.
With Gov. Youngkin’s bill, she said the board has the authority to make changes. “You need to look after the people of this county,” she said. “We just recently had a real estate increase. The people of this county are paying all that they can.”
Jordan said it’s hard for a lot of people to pay their bills with inflation and the cost of groceries and gas. “It’s in your hands to do something about this,” she said. “Now, maybe to some, a $200-$300 increase is not much, but I can promise you, to a majority of the people in this county it’s a lot and they cannot afford it.”
Chris Mattingly, of Ararat, said once the housing market deflates, the taxes are going to crush lower and middle class residents. “As a business owner, the consumer debt levels that people are pulling out in this country right now just to make ends meet, bad stuff’s going to happen because the train can’t keep going on forever,” he said.
Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, said she was in favor of personal property taxes being reduced “as stated in Virginia Code 58.135.06 as amended and reenacted to provide that the tax money Patrick County collects remains the same as it has been for the past two or three years.”