|Clifton Forge Hires New Town Manager, Raises Real Estate, Personal Property Taxes|
Clifton Forge, VA (May 26, 2020) - Clifton Forge Town Council hired a new town manager; approved raises in real estate and personal property taxes, as well as an increase in water and sewer charges, for the 2020-21 budget; and repealed the motor vehicle license fee during a teleconference meeting Tuesday night.
Rebecca â€śRebaâ€ť Mohler, town manager of Ronceverte, WV, since 2011, will take over the town manager duties of Clifton Forge on July 1, said Mayor Jeff Irvine. Her contract was unanimously approved by all five council members, who thanked members of a Citizens Advisory Committee and current Town Manager Darlene Burcham for helping with the search for a new town manager. Burchamâ€™s contract expires at the end of June.
A native of Monroe County, WV, Mohler holds a masterâ€™s degree in business administration from Virginia Tech. She was director of marketing and sales for First National Bank of Ronceverte for several years.
In other business, council approved the tax increases by a vote of 4-1, with Vice Mayor Pam Marshall casting the negative vote.
â€śI understand that we havenâ€™t had a real estate tax increase in 12 years, or a personal property increase in 20 years, but I feel like itâ€™s too much for the taxpayers to raise both,â€ť said Marshall. â€śWith so many people not working, taxpayers are struggling, I feel like raising all of these taxes as well as the water and sewer rates, itâ€™s too much at this time....Itâ€™s a bad time to do it.â€ť
Council member Dr. Ron Goings pointed out that the personal property rate increase effectively replaces the motor vehicle license fee, which was repealed later during the meeting.
Mayor Jeff Irvine initially said he couldnâ€™t vote in favor of the tax increases, with a $30,000 to $50,000 job for a public works superintendent being advertised, but Town Manager Darlene Burcham explained that the job for a superintendent had already been budgeted and that council had agreed that the job needed to be filled in order for day-to-day operations in the town to be managed. Clifton Forge and Alleghany County are now sharing an overall public works director.
Council approved a 5 cent increase in real estate taxes from 21 to 26 cents per $100; a 30-cent increase in personal property taxes, to offset repealing the vehicle license tax; and an increase of $1 to the water and sewer bill, taking the monthly fee from $110 to $111.
Mayor Jeff Irvine later noted that on a $10,000 car, owners will actually save about $9, and on a $40,000 car, the rate will be $61, minus the $20 fee. Citing other examples, Irvine said that for a $160,000 house, the increase will be about $80 more per year.
During council comments at the end of the meeting, Irvine said â€śI hate to raise taxes, but it had to be done to keep the town going. We had to do it.â€ť At the first reading of the ordinance earlier this month, Finance Director LeeAnna Tyler said that she and Burcham had recommended the increases to offset a projected drastic reduction in revenue, due to the COVID-19 quarantine.
Council also approved the 2020-21 budget, for a total of $6,290,179.
In other business, council:
-- Held the first reading and public hearing for the rezoning of and conditional use permit for several lots behind the Highlands Community Bank from R1 to BG for the construction of a mini-storage facility. The Clifton Forge Planning Commission held a public hearing May 7 and recommended approval of both the rezoning request as well as the conditional use permit. The only comment read was from Michael Starnes, whose company is building the units. He said he hopes to start construction by the end of the year.
-- Approved a request from Clifton Forge Main Street to hold the Downtown Market on Thursdays from 3:30 to 6:30 pm, June 11 through September 3 on Commercial Ave. between Ace Hardware and Sonabank.
--Approved an ordinance to vacate an alley to Randall and Ingrid Barber for the sum of $500
--Approved an ordinance to grant ingress/egress easement through Matthew Parks.