What does the Invista news mean to Waynesboro?
In short, everything.
Invista, and its predecessor, DuPont, is the last significant vestige of the city’s once-glittering manufacturing economy. According to figures from the Virginia Employment Commission, Waynesboro began 2008 with around 2,100 manufacturing jobs, with roughly 1,100 of those being at the Invista plant, either directly employed by Invista or by a contractor providing employee services to Invista. The cuts adding up to around 575 Invista workers by the end of the year accounts for more than half of the local workforce that began the year at Invista and more than a quarter of the overall manufacturing workforce in Waynesboro.
Another number that matters – according to the VEC data, the average manufacturing worker in Waynesboro was making $881 a week at the end of the first quarter of 2008, more than 25 percent above the average wage for a typical employee working in Waynesboro across the board.
Some historical perspective – in 2003, manufacturing accounted for 2,900 jobs in the Waynesboro labor market; in 1998, the sector accounted for 3,600 jobs; in 1993, manufacturing provided 4,400 jobs in Waynesboro.
Impact on local government
Just as significant, if not more so. Machinery and tools taxes account for roughly $2 million a year toward the annual city budget, trailing restaurant food taxes, at $2 million a year, personal-property taxes, basically car taxes, at $2.5 million a year, sales taxes, at $4 million a year, and real-estate taxes, which come in at close to $10 million a year.
Personal-property and real-estate taxes having been generally stable, the moving targets in the city budget in recent years have been sales and restaurant food taxes and machinery and tools taxes. Waynesboro actually collects more in sales and restaurant food taxes than neighboring Staunton now, a sharp change from five or six years ago when Staunton was the commercial and retail center of the Greater Augusta area. But the River City hasn’t been able to invest the new largesse because of the steady decline in collections in machinery and tools taxes due to the erosion of the manufacturing base here. Even with the growth of the past five to six years on the retail side, we’re basically dead-even revenue-collecion-wise. The apparently pending departure of Invista is going to threaten to put us in arrears.
Keep that in mind next spring when the conservative bloc at the head of city council begins its annual howlfest about the real-estate tax rate. A penny on the tax rate on a $200,000 home is $20 out of your pocket, and $125,000 to the city’s bottom line. Which is two schoolteachers or a chunk of the replacement to the crumbling Broad Street bridge, just to name two things that can get gutted for that extra twentyspot.
– Story by Chris Graham