King William Citizens commend county administrator, discuss changes and taxes at county town hall

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

King William County administrator Bobbie Tassinari held a town hall Tuesday night to hear citizen input on the upcoming 2019-20 budget and the direction the county is headed.

About 15 residents attended the session, with four residents stepping up to the podium to discuss county business while directors of county departments listened along with Tassinari.

Before the citizen input part of the town hall, Tassinari went over a few projects the county is looking to complete in 2019-20.

One of the biggest changes the county expects this year is the reorganization of fire and emergency medical services.

King William County Volunteer Fire-Rescue, which receives funds from the county as well as from donations and EMS billing revenue, recently came to the county asking it to take over their debt.

“They have worked hard to try to be the organization they want to be and provide the county services,” Tassinari said. “But they can’t make payments or emergency calls, their volunteer numbers are down, they don’t get as many donations as they once did and they can’t exist solely on what the county provides them.”

The county will take over volunteer fire station one, King William Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and will stop partially funding Mattaponi Volunteer Rescue Squad, which is operated by King and Queen County. The county also will develop a new volunteer fire and emergency services system in partnership with the county’s King William Fire and EMS, according to Tassinari.

“Station one will then become King William Volunteer Auxiliary, as a support service to the county fire and EMS,” Tassinari said. “We have also entered a lease with a private property owner for a warehouse across from the Nestle Purina plant for a building for the new station four.”

The county will redirect the money given to the two volunteer organizations to overall county fire and EMS operations, according to Tassinari.

“We are currently expending $1.16 million in our 2018-budget for the volunteer and county fire and EMS operations,” Tassinari said. “By setting up the stations, staffing them and redirecting the funding, there will be no budget impact this year.”

Tassinari said the change is needed as it is unacceptable for citizens to be without reliable service at times.

Property taxes

With reductions in real property taxes in the last three years, including a 2-cent reduction to 88 cents per $100 of assessed value in the 2018-19 budget, Tassinari said she anticipates a real property tax reduction again this budget year.

“We are not sure if it will be a full 2-cent reduction, as we are still going over the finances and numbers of putting the budget together, but there will be a reduction,” Tassinari said.

The tax rate has come down 4 cents per $100 of assessed value during the past three years because of an increase in population and local sales tax revenue. The population increased from 16,333 to 16,627 from 2017 to 2018 and the local sales tax revenue has increased 4.6 percent, according to Tassinari.

The county also will continue to support the schools, search for a reliable internet provider, find a solution for the depleted commerce park and revamp its ordinances and comprehensive plan, according to Tassinari.

Citizen comments

Fifth District resident Don Wagner started his comments by commending Tassinari.

“Your leadership has been positive for this county,” Wagner said. “I also thank the three board members that have been supportive of your efforts.”

Wagner said he thinks the fire and EMS program proposal will be a good change for the county.

“This county has been working for eight to 10 years trying to resolve issues we’ve had with fire and rescue. No longer will we have to watch buildings burn or wait for 45 minutes for a rescue squad.”

Fourth District resident Donald Berberich said he thinks that part of the $10.8 million in the county’s unassigned general fund should be given back to the taxpayers.

“This money didn’t drop out of the sky, it came from the taxpayers,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like the county wants to give it back and we are overpaying taxes.”

When asked to respond, Tassinari explained the fund is like the county’s savings account and has accumulated throughout several years.

“The general fund is generally kept so we can address unexpected incidents and also so we don’t have to take out long-term debt or bonds,” Tassinari said. “We recently put $2 million of it in the capital improvement fund for infrastructure improvements and $1.5 million of it to pay off a loan by the schools, so there will be a drop in the fund at the end of 2019.”

Berberich responded that part of it should still be given back to the citizens via lower taxes.

Also commending Tassinari was 4th District resident Bill Hughes, who discussed litter on the county’s roads.

“I started to think I made a wrong investment by moving here, but now I can see the daylight. But the roads are still full of litter. I know we had a cleanup day, but we have not been successful since and it’s an embarrassment.”

Hughes said he would like to see more “do not litter” signs throughout the county and for a citizen volunteer effort to be made.

Jeanette Wagner, who lives in the fifth district said she’s glad the county is revamping its ordinances.

“I’m a firm believer in ordinances, stringent ordinances because they protect our properties,” Jeanette Wagner said. “Those allowed to get away with trashing the county and properties should get violations.”

In terms of litter, she said she’d like for the county to explore Virginia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program and the program where people who are incarcerated do community service by picking up litter.

“For so long this county has been going backwards because we have been nitpicking and pinching nothing. But I’m tired of moving backwards and I’m glad we are finally moving forwards and towards the future.”

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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