Wise County

Wise County to have higher real estate taxes

WISE COUNTY, Va. - Wise County residents will have to pay higher real estate taxes after the Board of Supervisors passed the rate increase on Thursday night.

There was also a proposal to raise personal property taxes. We're told that motion has been tabled for now.

Residents at the meeting told us they don't think they should have to pay either tax.

"There's no jobs in Wise County," said Judy Pritchard, from Pound, Va. "Who's supposed to pay this tax?"

Another resident, Elmer Phelps, also spoke up.

"You cannot tax your way out of this problem," said Phelps.

The county is $2.5 million short in revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. County finance administrator David Cox told us that's the result of the declining coal industry.

"Coal is a big part of our economy," said Cox. "That's the decline in revenue we're experiencing, not only in coal severance, but also on real estate including minerals under development, machinery, tools, and so forth."

Cox told us that five years ago they had about $7 million in general revenue but now they have less than half of that amount.

He said tax increases would help make up some of that loss. The Board proposed raising the real estate tax by $.03 per $100 and increasing the personal property tax by $.05 per $100.

The revenue from those taxes would bring the county a combined amount of about $1.1 million, according to Cox.

Residents told us this isn't a permanent fix. The real problem, the said, is that the county didn't have the money to build two new schools, which opened this year.

Cox told us that's why the county has voted to refinance the debt from that project.

"That will free up some cash flow to avoid a higher tax increase for Wise County," said Cox.

He told us that refinancing the debt will free up about $1.5 million annually for the next three years.

Cox said the county has asked him to continue to make cuts to the $49.5 million budget.

The Board of Supervisors also discussed a potential wheel tax at Thursday night's meeting but it did not pass.

The tax would've required residents to pay $15 for each vehicle they own but they would no longer be required to buy the $5 decal.

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