Berlin Advertises To Maintain Property Tax Rate

Berlin Advertises To Maintain Property Tax Rate
Councilman Dean Burrell, Mayor Zack Tyndall and Councilman Jay Knerr are pictured during Monday’s discussion of the tax rate. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – While budget development is still underway, town officials agreed to advertise for an 81.5 cent tax rate this week.

The Berlin Town Council agreed on Monday to advertise to maintain the current 81.5 cent tax rate. Officials said it was too early in the budget process to consider increasing the rate.

“I don’t even want to consider raising the tax rate,” Councilman Jay Knerr said.

Mayor Zack Tyndall presented the council on Monday with a draft of the advertisement the town was set to publish regarding the tax rate. The advertisement states that the town plans to maintain the current tax rate of $0.815 per $100 of assessed value. According to the notice, the town’s assessable base is expected to increase from $515,257,481 to $537,944,112.

“In order to fully offset the effect of increasing assessments, the real property tax rate should be reduced to $0.7806, the constant yield tax rate,” the advertisement reads. “The Town of Berlin is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset increasing assessments.”

Instead, the town is considering leaving the tax rate at 81.5 cents. Tyndall said the budget for the coming year was under development and currently featured a shortfall of about $200,000.

“We’re still sharpening the pencils,” he said. “We’re still working as a group to make our way through that but know there is potentially a shortfall we’ll have to overcome. Will the tax rate stay at 81.5 cents? I don’t know.”

Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said the town was required to run an advertisement addressing the town’s assessable base and tax rate.

“We are required to run this exact advertisement prior to the public hearing for the tax rate,” she said. “The number you’re talking about tonight is not locking you in to anything.”

The council is set to have a budget work session next week, followed by introduction of the tax rate on April 10.

Councilman Steve Green said he felt the town should run the advertisement as presented even though a tax increase was a possibility. He said he felt an adjustment to the tax rate would have to be considered due to issues like inflation and the need to support staff salaries amid retention and recruitment struggles for vacant positions.

“However, I do believe this notice is a matter of protocol,” he said.

Bohlen agreed and said the town would not be wrong to run the advertisement as proposed.

“I think we’ve been transparent in the process — we’re working through that deficit,” Tyndall said. “There is much more to the process before it’s adopted. Work sessions, public meetings… all of those things exist for the tax rate as well as the adoption of the budget.”

Councilman Dean Burrell asked Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, about new construction. Engelhart said he’d been conservative with estimates because of inflation and the lag times on materials.

Knerr said assessments were up. He said the assessment on his own home had gone up 7%.

“Even keeping the tax rate, everybody’s going to feel the pain and pay more,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to increase the tax rate.

Councilman Jack Orris said he didn’t want to adjust the advertisement.

“I think it’s way too early in the process to be going that route,” he said.

Tyndall said no one wanted to raise taxes.

“We’re going to do everything we can,” he said. “None of our department heads want to see that happen either. We’re all working together to make this fit within the tax rate the best we can.”

A general fund work session is planned For Monday at 5 p.m. Agenda and proposed budget can be found here.

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.