Log in Subscribe

Commission raises county tax rate

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 7/2/22

Bedford County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to set the new tax rate at $2.32 for the upcoming fiscal year. This is an increase from the previous rate of $1.97.  

Many County …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Commission raises county tax rate


Bedford County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to set the new tax rate at $2.32 for the upcoming fiscal year. This is an increase from the previous rate of $1.97.  

Many County employees attended the meeting in support of the new tax rate, which will help set government salaries at a competitive rate and help the County’s high employee turnover rate.  

“We can’t go back to $1.97. We have to pay our employees. We have to keep up our economic development. If we don’t, all we’re doing is putting more and more tax burden on the property owners. And we’ve got to expand this tax base,” said Commissioner Greg Vick.  

The County has 438 employees, according to Mayor Chad Graham.  

The Commission discussed how it was split on keeping the rate the same and raising the rate. This led to several motions being made on the floor.  

The original motion was to set the rate at $1.97. Nine commissioners voted yes; nine voted no.  

Vick then placed a motion on the floor to set the rate at $2.35, which could be broken down by:  

— General: $1.46  

— Highway/Public works: $0.09  

— General purpose school: $0.62  

— General debt service: $0.15  

— County Capital Projects: $0.0352  

However, this again was a split vote at 9-9.  

After a 20-minute recess, Commissioner Jeff Sweeney then made the motion to take out $0.03 from the general fund, setting the rate at $2.32.  

The new tax rate was voted with12 yeses, 5 noes, and 1 pass. The audience, largely county employees, broke out into applause once the new rate was set.  

The new tax rate can be broken down to include:  

— General: $1.43  

—Highway/Public works: $0.09  

— General purpose school: $0.62  

— General debt service: $0.15  

— County Capital Projects: $0.0352  

This new rate will generate revenue but expenditures of where that money will go (such as to raises) will have to be amended in the July regular meeting after going through the finance committee, according to Graham.  

Those who voted yes include Janice Brothers, John Brown, Ed Castleman, Brian Farris, Don Gallagher, Sylvia Pinson, Jason Sanders, Julie Sanders, Jeff Sweeney, Adam Thomas, Mark Thomas, Greg Vick.  

Those who voted no include Bill Anderson, Anita Epperson, Bobby Fox, Tony Smith, and Linda Yockey. Commissioner Biff Farrar made his vote a pass.  

Those who were against the tax rate increase said citizens cannot afford a tax increase among the rise of cost of living and that the commission did not have adequate time to discuss the full extent of changing the tax rate.  

“Gas and diesel are at an all-time high. We’re approaching double-digit inflation. I do not think it is fiscally responsible to raise taxes during this economic time,” said Anderson. He also added that property values have gone up after recent reappraisals.  

Yockey said every person on the finance committee voted yes for the $1.97 tax rate that was presented previously.  

“Every person... all voted on this budget. That ended up being June 7...In one week, suddenly, we are at an apocalypse.”  

Chad Graham had issued a letter one week after the June 14 Board of Commissioners meeting, stating that the County actually needed a tax rate increase of $0.43, which was based off a study.  

“In 2021, a study by Burris, Thompson & Associates indicated that we are paying 22 percent less than market value for our current county employees,” wrote Graham. 

Yockey said, “But when you have a study done, then you incorporate it and mesh it into your thoughts and wishes. To my knowledge, that has not been done.”  

“So, you’re asking us to vote on something that I don’t know exactly what that is going to mean.”  

Graham said the letter is essentially “for your information. It is the prerogative of this body to set the tax rate, not the mayor. But it is my responsibility to make you aware of critical issues that are not addressed in that budget.”  

“So, if that [letter] was offensive to those, I apologize for that. It couldn’t be any more offensive than people running out of this room straight to social media, talking like an expert,” Graham added.  

Other commissioners who are for the new tax rate said County employees and other departments had been put on hold too long—that “we’ll give them more funding next year” had been pushed back for too long.  

Commissioner Thomas spoke about giving County employees, especially those in emergency services, the salaries they deserve in order to have a better employee retention rate.  

“When something goes wrong in Bedford County, these are people who get out there and meet the needs of the people who support them with their tax dollars.”  

Commissioner Pinson said, “The heart of this County is its employees.”  

Commissioner Brown added, “We don’t need to think about right now, but we need to think about the future.”  

Citizen comment  

During the Financial Management Committee meeting held before the special-called meeting, one County employee spoke about the need for raises.  

Keith Reynolds has worked with the County for 10 years and was recently promoted to dispatch management.  

“My people are suffering. It’s not just the pay, it’s the benefits as well,” he said. He said he took home about $1,000 per month because another $1,000 had to go to health insurance for his family.  

“I know no one wants a tax increase. I certainly don’t want a tax increase. But I also don’t want to see a deficit on services,” he said, referring to many employees leaving Bedford for other counties who pay higher wages.