“Folks are saying they want to be taxed higher, this is an opportunity to tax yourself higher and point that extra tax to what you feel most important about,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District).
“There’s many different departments that people have a passion for and this gives them the opportunity to put their money where they’re passionate.”
Ullenbruch was alerted by a constituent of an option to give residents a section on tax bills to overpay on purpose. The constituent asked House of Delegate Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville) if an option of unrestricted overpayment for a specific department was allowed. Bell responded that state statute does allow such an option and Prince Edward is the only county to utilize the practice.
On April 8, Ullenbruch met with Commissioner of Revenue Mel Sheridan, Treasurer Linda Lenherr and finance director Barbara Horlacher to discuss the implementation of such an option. Discussions with Prince Edward about carry out will have to occur but the option could begin as early as the second tax cycle in 2013 (the December tax bill).
The option to overpay would be on both real property and personal property tax bills. There would be the amount to pay based on assessed taxes then a second line asking if the taxpayer would like to contribute extra to any budgeted department the Board of Supervisors funds.
This includes school funding, Sheriff Department, parks and recreation, any non-profit, information technology, finance, etc. The donation is unrestricted for the department.
Ullenbruch said the process after each tax collection would include the Treasurer presenting the Board of Supervisors with the excess tax collection earmarked for each department. The supervisors would then vote to release the funds to the departments. The personel in charge of the department, or School Board in the case of the school system, then decides how to spend the money, without restriction.
“There’s a difference between [the proposal] and say, I show up to the School Board meeting with a check for $100. They can’t use that money for [much] — they’d have to come in with school supplies or this or that. You can’t donate money into the school budget. In this case, you can,” said Ullenbruch.
Most real property tax bills are never seen by the homeowners. Ullenbruch said a majority of tax bills are paid through mortgage bills. The county could choose to mail a separate ‘bill’ to the homeowner for this excess contribution. Tenants could also decide to contribute excess of whatever the owner pays.
All personal property owners would also see the line for additional tax payment on bills. The line, however, is not directing spending of the taxed amount. In order to utilize the option, the taxpayer has to pay the tax in full.
“On the back of the tax bill it’ll be very clear that it is not a portion of your taxes. It is actual overpayment of your taxes. That one of those things we have to be very clear about that,” said Ullenbruch.
Ullenbruch will propose the option on April 10. He is confident it will pass but expects discussion on how the process will be fully carried out.