Berlin Mayor Proposes 4% Property Tax Rate For Council Review

Berlin Mayor Proposes 4% Property Tax Rate For Council Review
Photo by Chris Parypa

BERLIN –  Mayor Gee Williams this week formally proposed a 3.75% tax increase for the coming fiscal year.

On Monday, Williams introduced a proposed property tax rate of $.83 per $100 of assessed value. The increase, which citizens can comment on at a public hearing March 23, comes in the wake of last year’s 18% tax hike.

“The process of doing the budget formally begins once the property tax rate has been proposed,” Williams said.

According to data regarding possible tax rate scenarios presented at a work session last month, the town’s projected property tax revenues for fiscal year 2021 are $3.5 million. A tax increase of 3.75% would bring in an additional $130,879. Though the data reviewed last month included revenue projections for a $.87 tax rate, a $.85 tax rate and a $.83 rate, Williams proposed the latter on Monday. He said now that the rate was introduced, the budget could be developed based on the associated revenue projections.

“The next step is in two weeks,” he said, indicating the public hearing on the tax rate set for March 23.

Resident Jason Walter said Berlin’s current tax rate of $.80 was twice the state average. He added that based on constant yield, the town’s tax rate could actually go down this year.

“If you keep the rate the same you’ll see about $75,000 in new revenue and that doesn’t account for any additional development,” Walter said.

Williams said that while changes in assessments would bring more revenue to the town, it wouldn’t be immediate.

“We won’t see a significant increase in our tax revenue from assessment increases until FY 2022,” he said.

In an interview Tuesday, Williams said he’d opted to propose the $.83 tax rate because the town needed some additional revenue to allow for capital purchases and salary increases. Officials indicated when they approved last year’s tax increase that another less significant increase would be needed.

“The basic assumptions made almost a year ago still hold,” Williams said. “Nothing has changed that dramatically.”

He said the town needed to make some capital purchases and provide staff with a modest salary increase. A slightly larger salary increase—expected to be 9%—will be proposed for police.

“We’re not competitive in this market,” Williams said. “Our efforts in public safety are contingent on having quality police officers.”

He said he didn’t want Berlin to become one of the municipalities officers joined and left after just a few months on the job.

“Public safety is fundamental to our happiness here,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

The town’s budget work sessions are set to begin in April.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.