Hopewell to hike tax by 3 cents
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
May 3, 2014, 12:35
HOPEWELL NEWS — The tax rate in Hopewell will increase $0.03 in the coming months. Council voted unanimously to increase the tax rate at the meeting Tuesday night.
The increase comes after the public hearing for the new tax ordinance was delayed two weeks due to some councilors expressing concern about not having enough time to view the budget.
The added $0.03 represents the third and final installment of the debt services for Hopewell High School, used to pay for the over $20 million in renovations.
This is the last installment of that agreement, which was $0.09 spread over the course of three years, 2010, 2012 and 2014.
In the weeks prior, council discussed raising the tax rate a total of $0.06. That increase would have brought the tax rate to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value, a 5.6 percent increase.
For each added penny to the tax rate, it adds $130,000 to the budget. Council is currently in the final stages of finalizing the $45 million budget for the next year. Though many requests were provided by departments throughout the city, the councilors, as well as the speakers during the public hearing, said now was not the time to add those pennies to the tax rate.
“I do believe we’ve had time these past two weeks to look at this budget and I feel very confident tonight that you will do what is best for our citizens and realizing we’re all in a crunch,” Janice Denton said before the vote.
Denton spoke at the public hearing on April 15 and said the citizens of Hopewell did not have enough time to look over all the budget changes to have an informed opinion.
Councilor Wayne Walton said over the past six years, council has raised the tax rate a total of $0.09 and said there was no reason for another penny added to the bottom line.
“It seems with the tax rate we’ve had we’ve been able to gain some money,” Walton said. “There are some dollars we can use to bridge the gap until next year. ... I think we’ve got the dollars, we can shift it all around and do some things. I think it’s enough to put on the citizens with the times just starting to recover.”
Councilor Jackie Shornak echoed the sentiments from Walton. Though she recognized that many departments sent in their “wish lists” for the next budget cycle, Shornak said this is not the year for everyone to get what they are asking for.
“Should we raise it another penny for $130,000,” Shornak asked. “With all the requests, that would still not meet giving everybody what they want.”
Among the wish list items were added positions for the police department and the sheriff’s department.
The two sheriff’s deputies at full-time would cost the city, a salary of $77,600 with benefits at $30,000, for a total of $107,600.
The proposed position for the police, which would cost the city a salary of $54,000 with benefits at $18,100, for a total of $72,100, would be in charge of upkeep for accreditation for the department. The Hopewell Police Department became an accredited agency in June of last year, becoming one of only 84 agencies in the state, to hold the title.
The department worked for 21 months, completed a re-write of over 100 policies and created a 1,000-page policy manual.
“To upkeep accreditation is a heck of a lot more each year than it is to get accredited that one year,” Hopewell Police Chief John Keohane said at a council meeting in February. “I’m just requesting a position that was inadvertently deleted from my budget last year.”
Council held a work session on the budget following the vote on the tax ordinance. The budget is scheduled to be approved and voted on next month.