Commission on State and Local Government
Responsibility and Taxing Authority
August 12, 1997, Charlottesville
The Local Government Official's Conference
in Charlottesville was the site of the August 12th meeting of
the Commission on State and Local Government Responsibility
and Taxing Authority. The commission members were briefed
by representatives from four localities regarding the current
economic conditions in each locality. Assessment practices
and procedures around the Commonwealth were explained by a
revenue commissioners' representative, and a treasurers'
representative discussed the tax collection process.
Local Government Revenue Briefings
The four localities represented during the meeting were
the City of Staunton, the Town of Pulaski and the Counties
of Henrico and Rockingham. Common themes among the
localities' spokespersons included a plea to the commission not
to diminish the current taxing authority the localities have,
but instead to give them as much flexibility as possible. Also,
it was suggested that the state take more financial
responsibility for the educational Standards of Quality requirements that
The populations of the four localities range in size
from 10,000 in the Town of Pulaski to 245,000 in Henrico
County, with general fund budgets of $5.7 million and $439
million, respectively. The City of Staunton and the Town of Pulaski
are having more difficulty financially than the two counties are.
Staunton has even been pursuing reversion to town status
because of future financial obligations, particularly in the
education and social service areas. Henrico County, on the
other hand, is doing well. Three of the four localities mentioned
the fact that their debt service has increased over the past few
years, which takes away funds from other needs.
Overall, localities throughout the Commonwealth are
concerned about the future. They see a need for more means
to raise revenues, not less, and greater contribution from the
state in areas in which the localities have little control or input.
Assessment and Collection Procedures
The representative of the Commissioners of the
Revenue Association explained the assessment methods for personal
property tax and machinery and tools tax. The bottom line
regarding assessment methods is that there are varying values,
pricing guides and assessment ratios utilized throughout the
Commonwealth. Uniformity is lacking, as it was with the BPOL
tax prior to its reform. The Commissioners of the Revenue
Association will work on recommendations regarding uniformity
in this area for presentation to the commission by December.
The collection process is somewhat more uniform in
that most localities collect the taxes once a year in December.
Only 21 out of 121 localities collect the personal property tax
more often than annually. Legislation was passed during the
1997 Session that permits localities to offer taxpayers the option
of paying the tax monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, semiannually
or in a lump sum, provided the tax is paid in full by the final
due date. The law took effect July 1, so it is too soon to know
how many localities will allow the divided payments.
The commission adopted a tentative schedule for the
remainder of the year in order to cover all of the issues that have
been brought to its attention. In September, the topic of
discussion will be real estate taxes and issues the Farm Bureau has in
this regard. The earned income tax credit will be examined in
October, followed in November by the proposed federal tax
law changes and their effect on Virginia income taxes. Finally,
a public hearing or hearings will be held in December to
allow interested parties to comment on all of the issues the
commission will have examined by that time.
Ms. Eva Tieg, Chair
Legislative Services contact: Joan E. Putney