Watch as VRE and its 2% gas tax increase sneak in the back door.

Oh, look, there it goes.

I dun warn you all ’bout this already.

On December 10, 2007, The Free Lance–Star reported that Caroline County had received a $100,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation “to study building a passenger rail station in the Carmel Church area.”

In the story, a VRE spokesman said the following about Caroline County joining VRE: “It is a doable option”.

To join VRE, the County is required by the Code of Virginia to impose a 2% gas tax (§ 58.1-1720).

On February 18, 2008, I pointed out that the county had received $490,000 from a federal earmark for a “Commuter Rail Station at Carmel Church, VA”.

Well, this week, Rob Wittman released his earmark requests and lo and behold an additional earmark for $800,000 for a “Carmel Church Multimodal TOD Commuter Rail Project”.

UPDATE: Gary Wilson at the Department of Economic Development requested the $800,000 after “consultation with the Board of Supervisors” according to an email. Percy Ashcraft (the County Administrator) has yet to answer my e-mail (sent May 2nd, at 5:44 a.m.) asking if they are in the process of negotiating with VRE.


Are any of use stupid enough to believe that the county is going to turn down $1,390,000? Those earmarks can only be used for what they’re specified for (hence the name “earmark”).

Right now, gas is costing $3.49 or so. $0.38 are federal and state tax. That makes the base price $3.11 ($3.49 – $0.38 = $3.11). The VRE gas tax would increase the cost of gas by $0.06 (3.11 * 0.02 (2%) = $0.0622). ON EVERY GALLON. An additional 6 cents of cost on every gallon of gasoline.

Cui bono? (Good for whom?)

According to the VRE’s 2006 Passenger Survey Results, there were only 49 people in Caroline County that rode VRE in 2006 (VRE [PDF]). That is less than two tenths of one percent (0.19%) of the population of Caroline County.

Did they request something like hand-held biometric units for the Sheriff’s Office like Spotsylvania County? No.

Did they request money to improve emergency radio communications like Stafford County? No.

Did they request money for equipment for police vehicles like Prince William County? No.

Did they request money to improve broadband service like the Eastern Shore, the Northern Neck, and the Middle Peninsula are going to get? No.

Instead of requesting money for something that would improve everyone in Caroline County, they want money for something that will help 0.19% of the population.

Meanwhile, everyone will be paying 6 cents (at $3.49 per gallon) more for every gallon of gas with the amount of tax increasing every time the price of gas goes up. This after they already raised real estate tax rates by $50/$100,000.


Addendum: What affect would this have on county services? Public safety organizations are not exempt from the tax.

In 2006, the Sheriff’s Office drove 1,006,997 miles in patrol. A 2008 Ford Crown Victoria gets a combined estimated 18 miles per gallon. That means the Sheriff’s Office purchased approximately 55,944 (1,006,997 / 18 = 55944.277 repeating) gallons in fuel. At current prices in gas, the new tax would increase the money they pay for fuel by $3,356. That’s just the increased cost the tax would have (i.e. it doesn’t include the cost of rising fuel prices [which would further increase the tax]).

Further, what affect would this have on fire and rescue equipment that gets even less miles per gallon?

End Addendum.

Wow, big suprise there.

The Washington Times: ‘Tax Me More Fund’ raises little revenue:

State lawmakers can rule out Virginian’s offering up more of their hard-earned money to fix the $1.4 billion budget shortfall Gov. Tim Kaine announced this week.

At least that is what a peek at the so-called “Tax Me More Fund” suggests.

Since its inception in 2002, the fund has collected a total of $10,217.04.


Public generosity reached its high point in 2003 when Virginians forked over $6,602. The low point was in 2006, when the state received a measly $19.36.

Bye-bye proffers; hello impact fees?

The Free Lance-Star: Senate advances bill to replace proffers:

A controversial bill that would dramatically revamp the way localities get development to pay for itself won approval from a Senate committee yesterday, clearing the way for a vote from the full Senate.

Sen. John Watkins’ bill would replace the current proffer system with capped impact fees, something developers want but has local government leaders complaining.

Watkins told the Senate Finance Committee that the proffer system is “out of hand, it is out of control” because some localities charge proffers of up to $40,000 per new house. He said that raises housing prices, making homeownership less affordable, and artificially inflates real estate taxes.

Read the whole article, it’s pretty interesting (I’ll see how many cases of insomnia I cure).

I wonder what the Caroline County Board of Supervisors thinks of the proposal?

February 4, 2008 – Board of Supervisors/School Board joint meeting roundup

  1. Call to Order
  2. Invocation
  3. Timetable for Opening of Lewis & Clark Elementary School

The Free Lance-Star: Caroline school may open soon

  1. Discussion of K-5 School Concept

The K-5 school concept would have kindergarten through fifth grade in one building as opposed to have a separate primary and elementary school. According to studies that have been conducted it is more effective for students to be in one school for kindergarten through fifth grade (according to the study the students lose up to three months getting used to a new school and personnel). There was discussion on breaking up the students going to Bowling Green Primary and Elementary Schools and changing each of the schools into a K-5 school.

  1. Composite Index Discussion

Due to the composite index increasing (meaning the state claims the county can better fund schools this year than last year), the county will receive $1,000,000.00 less this year than last year. The composite index currently states that Caroline County is better able to fund their schools than Spotsylvania or Stafford Counties.

Since I’m lazy, here’s an email I wrote to someone on the composite index with a detailed analysis:

I wasn’t sure what numbers you had for the composite index at the Board of Supervisors-School Board meeting but I found the following stuff a couple weeks ago, from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE):

Specifically, there is one file that has the numbers (true values of real estate, the local adjusted gross income, the local taxable retail sales, student population, and county population) that the VDOE uses for each school division:

A couple of things I noticed:

Just looking at that, for some reason the state seems to think that Caroline County has more property value compared to county/student population than Spotsylvania County for some reason.

Also, the county’s population seems to be lower than it should be. According to Bureau of Census figures given to the FBI in 2005 for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the county’s population was 23,390. According to a story Ellen Biltz did (Region’s crime rate up, bucks the trend) the county’s population grew by 10% in 2006. 23,390 * 1.10 = 25,729. However, the composite index’s information says the county’s population is only 25,109. That’s only a 7.3% change. You could probably safely say all of those estimates are low considering Caroline County was named the 10th fastest growing county in the United States in 2005 and one of the fastest growing in Virginia in 2006. Director Fuzy put the county’s population at around 27,000 in a recent news story (Electronic alerts coming).

Furthermore, the composite index’s information states that the county only has a student population of 3,911. However, according to another report from the VDOE (at the 2007-2008 student population for Caroline County Public Schools is 4,171 students (not sure why they say the student population went down from 2006-2007 to 2007-2008 in that report either).

Using the 25,729/4,171 population for the county and student population resulted in the composite index dropping to 0.3631, just below Stafford County’s. Using the 27,000/4,171 population figures the composite index drops to 0.3573.

Also, there are/were several bills that would affect the composite index going through the General Assembly but a couple of them have died already:

Anyway, back to the agenda:

  1. Proposed Fiscal Year 2008/09 School Budget

Actually, it was a non proposed preliminary (or some such) budget. The highlights included a 6% increase in teacher salaries and an operating budget of $39,300,000. However, Chairman Thomas said that that budget more than likely wasn’t feasible based on the state cutting over $1,000,000 due to the composite index.

  1. Next New School Discussion

They did not discuss where the school would be, only how they would pay for it. Chairman Thomas said the county was almost at the maximum amount of borrowing that their financial advisor had suggested in guidelines.

The only solution that was put forth was a bond referendum on the November 2008 ballot that would also include an increase in real estate taxes to pay back the bonds.

UPDATE: Reminder: The next School Board meeting is February 11, 2007.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is February 12, 2007. Another reminder: Public comments for the Ladysmith Sub Area Plan will be allowed at the February 12th meeting.

Here’s a way to fix Virginia’s budget problems…

From the AP via WTOP: Lawmaker Proposes Hefty Tax on Bongs:

Bongs and water pipes are billed as tobacco accessories – but one Maryland lawmaker says everyone knows they’re used to smoke illegal drugs and should be heavily taxed.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Muse of Prince George’s County proposed a bill Wednesday to add a $20 tax to tobacco paraphernalia.

Muse says the tobacco accessories are now subject only to the regular 6 percent state sales tax. He says the $20 tax proposal isn’t intended to raise revenue, but to act as a deterrent for young people who smoke marijuana.

Muse sponsored a new Maryland law that requires people to be at least 18, the legal smoking age, before buying tobacco accessories such as bongs. Muse says he’d like to outlaw bongs because they’re so seldom used to smoke legal products, but he knows such a bill would not pass.

Another authority that gets to tax you coming to Caroline County?

Looks like Dave Albo has some competition now, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Authority for transit projects sought:

A Richmond delegate and business leaders are getting ready to push for a regional authority that could raise $105 million annually for transportation projects in central Virginia.

The money would be generated through an additional 2 percent tax on gas, as well as new or increased fees on car registrations, inspections and repairs. The taxes and fees could apply to much of the Richmond and Petersburg area.

As envisioned, the money would support the sale of long-term bonds that would fund roads and other projects to “deal with the transportation issue in central Virginia before it becomes a crisis,” said Del. Franklin P. Hall, D-Richmond, who plans to introduce legislation on the authority to the 2008 General Assembly, which convenes Wednesday.

“We see the issue as important enough that the leaders need to at least give it some thought,” said James W. Dunn, president of the Greater Richmond Chamber.

Hall’s bill would be enabling legislation. The Central Virginia Regional Authority would be subject to the approval of local governments, and it would spread over nine localities: the cities of Richmond, Colonial Heights, Petersburg and Hopewell, and the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Hanover, Henrico and Prince George.

The authority could impose the taxes and fees if the governing bodies of at least five of the nine localities approve. The five approving localities would have to represent at least 51 percent of the area’s population, and they would have to include at least two of the three most populous localities, which are Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond. Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Goochland, Cumberland, New Kent, Powhatan and Sussex counties could opt in.

As drafted, the bill would require the localities to act by the end of this year, and it could potentially set up the authority — and the higher taxes and fees — in localities even if they oppose it.


The central Virginia authority is modeled after similar ones approved by the General Assembly last year for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. The authorities haven’t been without controversy.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments in a challenge to a circuit court decision upholding the creation of the authority for Northern Virginia.

“We have been assured by the attorney general . . . that it meets the test and those statutes are valid,” Hall said.

It never stops…

Caroline County Board of Supervisors to expand exemptions for Business, Professional, and Occupational License (BPOL) tax?

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: BRIEFS: NEWS NEAR YOU:

Caroline Businesses with gross annual receipts of less than $50,000 would see expanded exemptions to business-license fees and taxes under a county proposal. The Caroline County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposal Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the community services center. Currently, only businesses with annual gross receipts of less than $2,500 are exempt from the tax and fees.

State to opt for impact fees instead of proffers?

From WTOP: Va. Developers Consider New Ways to Compensate Localities:

Virginia home builders may ask state legislators to change the way they help defray the costs of municipal services required by new development.

Currently, developers offer cash and land for roads, schools or parks. Those voluntary commitments, called proffers, are usually negotiated with city or county leaders.

In recent years, however, some localities have made proffers an informal requirement for approval of a project.

The Home Builders Association of Virginia has distributed a position paper suggesting that proffers be replaced with an impact fee on new homes that could be set by state lawmakers. The proposal also includes a new tax on the sale of existing homes, although it is unclear whether buyers or sellers would pay the tax.

And where do sellers get money from, idiot?

The buyers! Duh.

Sellers don’t have an invisible pile of money around to pay for taxes…

Cash proffers have become “an unbridled tax on new housing in virtually every modest growth area of the Commonwealth,” according to the document from the builders’ lobbying group.

Discussion of an automatic impact fee is a departure for the home building lobby, which has opposed the concept in the past.

Some developers argue that cash proffers are to blame for the current slump in the housing market because the cost is passed on to buyers in the purchase price.

Del. Terrie Suit, R-Virginia Beach, who was recently briefed on the plan, said she would be reluctant to support anything that would further tax home sales.

“Our housing market is really stressed right now,” said Suit, a mortgage loan officer. “We need people to start buying homes, so increasing the cost of buying a home is not a good thing.”

The builders association argues that its proposal would increase affordable housing options by spreading infrastructure costs among more property transactions.

Del. Franklin Hall, D-Richmond, supports revamping a proffer system that he said “is exacerbating urban sprawl.”

The Virginia Association of Counties opposes any plan that would deprive local governments of the power to ask developers to help pay infrastructure costs, spokesman Ted McCormack said.

“We’d be reluctant to give up cash proffers unless we feel like the impact fee system would offer flexibility,” he said. “A one-size-fits-all approach is probably not something that’s going to work across 95 counties.”

The General Assembly convenes Jan. 9.