Tax hikes not popular with Gloucester supervisors

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Two things became clear at Wednesday night's budget work session of the Gloucester Board of Supervisors.

The first is that proposed tax hikes are not popular with members of the Board of Supervisors. The second is that the next budget work session, scheduled for April 11, will be a humdinger.

A proposed almost three-fold increase in the boat tax that had been roundly criticized by county residents, marina owners and workers, and others, was rejected by the supervisors. They also let their feelings be known about a proposed four-cent hike in the real estate tax rate.

Supervisor Bob "JJ" Orth said it's not a good time to raise taxes with the uncertainties of the economy, particularly with sequestration. He said the idea of raising taxes four cents is causing him to lose sleep.

Supervisor Carter Borden said he wouldn't mind a raise in taxes because he can pay for it. But he represents the people of his district, he said, who can't pay their taxes. "I'm going to represent them," Borden said.

Supervisor Ashley Chriscoe said he is not in favor of a tax hike for real estate. He is bringing home less money every month in his paycheck, he said. "Everywhere we turn we're paying more and more taxes," he said.

Supervisor Andy James said that the board has to keep its constituents' best interests at heart. That includes trying to not raise taxes at all so people can pay for the houses, cars and other things they have.

"Hopefully, good Lord willing, we will get through this some kind of way," James said.

If the supervisors follow through with refusing to hike real estate taxes, then that coupled with the rejection of the proposed boat tax means $2.2 million in tax revenue will have to be cut out of the proposed FY14 budget. That's about $600,000 from the boat tax hike and $1.6 million from the real estate tax increase.

Plenty of ideas for cuts were tossed around at Wednesday's meeting -- including holding off on a proposed $762,000 increase in pay for county employees and cutting back on vehicle purchases -- but the board agreed to tackle the budget hacking in earnest at its meeting on April 11. They also agreed that could make for a long night.

The budget is due to be adopted at the April 16 Board of Supervisors meeting.

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