Tracy Pyles: No fire tax in Augusta County

The message of the latest public hearings, and the continuing drumbeat of the News Leader, is that Augusta County taxes are too low.  “Ultra-low” as recently described by the News Leader. This assessment is neither true nor popular in the Pastures District.

augusta countyThe folks I represent are hard working with many of modest means.  We must balance all people and all notions of what is needed to have good lives when deciding what burden to place on our residents.

We know of course residential properties cost more to serve than they provide in revenue. By contrast productive agriculture, open land, and industrial investments pay more in taxes than they receive in services. The more open land we have, the more industry we have, the less we require from our citizens to pay for the services they require.

We presently are blessed with a vibrant agricultural community.  We help sustain our long standing beef, dairy and feed operations, and foster the new ventures in vineyards, by keeping a rural tax rate ($.58). As our neighbors in Albemarle ($.839) and Rockingham ($.74) accede to the demands of suburbanization they push out agriculture and become less attractive to new industry.  The law of diminishing returns becomes obvious as we tax out farming and manufacturing,

We presently spend over $10,000,000 aiding volunteers and employing 105 career personnel annually for Fire and Rescue services.  Putting 25% ($.145) of our real property taxes into these services are the most in the history of Augusta County.  If I am wrong that we can better use the resources we have, ok, I can adjust.  But I believe it is an intricate part of my job to continually evaluate if your money is well spent.

When hearing that “our taxes are too low” from special interest groups I think of groups that are not griping about how we tax but who are just as special: Seniors whose social security checks do not keep up with costs.  The working poor, who cannot make it paycheck to paycheck without resorting to the ruthless “Fast Loan” industry. Our manufacturing companies who continually look for ways to lower taxes so as to remain competitive and in the USA.  Our local farmers who have no ability to pass through increases as commodity markets are unyielding. Young couples starting their lives burdened with college debt and disbelieving when understanding how many hands are grabbing their salary before they do.

I believe our taxes are fair and, importantly, sufficient for our needs. I will not vote to increase property tax or be a part of adding a “fire tax” no matter the ugliness that is hurled at me.

Tracy C. Pyles Jr. is the chairman of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors. He resides in Churchville.

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