No, Virginia Beach Did NOT Cut Taxes

by Kerry Dougherty 

I don’t normally link to Virginian-Pilot stories. Today is an exception.

Find the fiction in this one: “Virginia Beach Adopts $2.6 Billion Budget, Cutting Taxes and Increasing City Worker Pay.”

Once again, the press joins the city in spreading a fantasy. This time it’s that when the city council lowered the property tax rate from .99 per $100 of assessed value to .97, our magnanimous elected officials “cut” taxes.

I’m calling BS on that.

As John Moss pointed out in his clear-eyed analysis of the budget here yesterday, to actually keep taxes about the same for most Beach residents – given the sharp rise in assessments this year – the city should have lowered the rate to .92.

Not a chance they would do that. Too many festivals and projects to fund!

By reducing the rate by 2 cents, they actually RAISED taxes on almost every single property owner in the city.

Virginia Beach city government has a media relations department. It would be nice if the media challenged the spin now and then.

Want a laugh? Get a load of this from the Pilot story:

For a resident with a median home value of $388,200, the 2-cent reduction will save $78 a year.”

Yippee!

What the writer doesn’t mention is that that same resident will see a big increase in real estate taxes this year. Especially those with homes worth more than $388,200, which is half of all homes.

Later in the same story, the reporter points out that the city is engaging in its favorite sleight-of-hand: hiking fees. Why the media adopts the city’s misleading language on this is baffling. Fees are taxes. Why not just call them that?

“Fees for water, sewer and curbside recycling will increase. Per month, water will increase by $2.70; sewer by 79 cents; and recycling by $3.05.”

What do you say we do a little arithmetic on these tax hikes: Water bills will go up $32.40 a year, sewer costs will rise $9.48 and recycling’s gonna cost residents an additional $36.60.

Let’s add ‘em all up, shall we? Whaddya know, fees will go up $78.48 a year, wiping out that big $78 real estate tax savings the city is touting.

The vote to hike taxes on struggling Beach residents was 10-1. The only council member to vote against this bloated multi-billion dollar budget was Chris Taylor:

“I don’t think the 2-cent reduction is going to do much for families,” (Chris) Taylor said in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot following the vote. “We could have been more aggressive.”

Chris Taylor could use a few friends. Remember that come November.