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Taxes are going up in Augusta County: What will you get for the extra money out of pocket?

Chris Graham
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Augusta County residents who own homes and property in the county are going to pay more taxes, and if you smoke cigarettes, you’re going to pay more, in addition to all the health things you’re putting yourself (and people around you) through.

The county is going to advertise a 52-cent tax rate, which is technically lower than the current 63-cent rate, but is 10 cents above what they call the equalization rate, which comes into play in a reassessment year.

With the 2024 reassessments coming in at an average increase for residential property owners of 54 percent, the equalization rate would be 42 cents per $100 assessed value.

But county leaders, who met on Monday for a budget work session, are looking at a proposed annual budget that grows more than $7 million in the 2025 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The proposed 10-cent increase over the equalization rate would give the county an estimated $12 million in new revenues, which would provide money for the growth in the annual budget and the capital-projects budget, the big-ticket item there being the new Augusta County Courthouse.

The courthouse project eats up a third of that $12 million – just over $4 million a year.

Before you fire off an angry email, that one was the result of a court order – basically, the county kept kicking the can down the road for years about doing something to address the obvious safety issues at the current courthouse in Downtown Staunton, eventually the bill was going to come due, and eventually is now.

You could say the same is true with the relatively paltry $1 million a year that county leaders are budgeting to beef up fire and EMS staffing.

The eastern half of the county is only getting denser, meaning, more people, more houses, more cars on the road, thus, more calls to 911 for health issues, more fires, more traffic accidents.

We’re way past the time in our culture where we can just expect volunteers to do all of that work for free.

Another big chunk of money – $2.5 million in the coming fiscal year – is being budgeted for the Middle River Regional Jail.

The mass incarceration of numerous classes of individuals who would be better served by putting more money into mental-health services isn’t a purely local issue, but local governments have to foot the bill for the failings of the folks in Richmond and D.C.

One other big-ticket item in the proposed budget is a new one: body and dashboard cams for the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, which will come in at a cost of just under $900,000 in the coming year.

This one is another kick-the-can-down-the-road matter for the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, but it seems that this might be the year it finally gets done, based on what was said in a lengthy discussion on the matter at the Monday budget work session.

So, yes, your tax bill is going to go up, and not by a little bit. The average homeowner in the county will see an increase in the range of $300 next year.

What you’ll get for that: well, not much, honestly.

It’s mostly stuff that should have been done years ago, and if county leaders hadn’t kicked the can down the road, might not have cost as much as it’s going to cost now.

This is what you get for voting a straight-party ticket.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].