Staunton City Council talks tax rate, recycling, and school funding

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 8:25 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - Staunton City Council votes on its 2022 budget next week, but they still have some things to resolve. Like how much to give the schools to close a nearly half a million dollar funding gap, whether or not to try a new recycling program, and what the tax rate should be.

Council is closer to a plan for next year’s budget, but they’re still not quite there.

“It’s tough to recycle,” said Staunton Public Works Director Jeff Johnston. “A lot of municipalities, especially municipalities our size are just throwing in the towel. It’s just too expensive. I don’t want that to be us.”

City leaders are leaning toward a new recycling program that would trade in curbside pick-up for people taking their own recycling, including plastic, to a collection point. It would cost half what it costs now.

“I think it’s worth at least a try. We can always reevaluate later on,” said Vice Mayor Mark Robertson.

And the city’s Chief Financial Officer Phil Trayer has found a way to give schools $220,000, meeting the schools halfway toward filling the $444,000 needed to balance their budget.

“I would like to do as much as possible as far as the school system to get together with finances there,” said Staunton Councilman Terry Holmes.

But the tax rate, currently at $0.95 remains up in the air. “I cannot feel comfortable with going below 93 cents for the real estate tax rate,” said Councilwoman Brenda Mead. “I want to see our citizens get even more of a tax break. I would like to see a 92 cent tax break,” said Robertson. “I just think that we would be crazy to cut out any revenue at this moment until we find out how things are gonna stabilize,” stated Holmes.

Every cent is equal to about $215,000 for the city.

“When considering the FY22 tax rate we need to keep in mind the current trend of the jail,” stated Trayer. Operating costs are up more than $500,000 this year at Middle River Regional Jail.

A lower real estate tax rate still means higher taxes for the people of Staunton due to reassessments resulting in higher property values.

Some council members say the public is telling them to invest more in schools and keep curbside recycling.

Council will vote on the budget next Thursday night.

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