Dear Editor & Blowing Rock Residents,
Many of us attended the Blowing Rock public meeting on May 1st at which Shane Fox and Bo Chapman discussed the proposal to bury the utility lines between the Speckled Trout and St. Mary’s Church at a cost of $6.4 million dollars. Shane said that by refinancing the Blowing Rock No. 1 Fire Department building (scheduled to be paid off in only 2 years), the money can be borrowed ($4 million) to finance phase #1 – digging the trench and putting in conduits. Shane said the utility lines would be put through in phase #2 sometime in the future for an additional $2.4 million in today’s dollars.
During the Q & A time a local resident said that her property had been reassessed at double the previous value and that her taxes had gone up a lot. She expressed concern about higher taxes. It is possible that the new budget will raise residential property taxes about 3 cents or possibly more, depending on the Town Council. Shane talked about the final year of a bond increase- plus that supplies and inflation were showing an increase around 20%-25%, and employees expect a cost-of-living raise, which Shane called a “normal increase.” Three cents translates to an approximate 9% tax increase. This does not even include the increase for the utility line burial; it would be added in 2024, along with any other cost of living or capital need increases. A person at the event asked if that increase would be stopped after the term of the loan was satisfied. She did not receive an affirmative answer. Phase #2 of the project would require financing also.
This is not just about the financial cost of the project; there is a human cost that is even more important. Beaufort (NC), Key West (FL), Breckenridge (CO), and many other attractive towns, whose house prices escalated, have become so expensive with property taxes that long-term residents have had to sell their family homes and leave. These towns now have only affluent residents, and people whose relatives have lived in towns for generations can no longer afford to live there. That is truly sad, as a mix of different economic levels is good for a town. The towns that have raised property taxes with increasing evaluations have forced out anyone not affluent, and they have to import people to work in the restaurants and businesses. Is that who we want to be?
While our current tax rate is .37, in reality it is equivalent to 2 to 3 times that since houses are valued at 2 to 3 times what they would cost in another town. A small two-bedroom house on Main Street that has not been updated since it was built in 1954, has no parking, and does not have a view has been listed for about $1 million.
Do we really want to raise taxes for “wants” rather than only for “needs”? Do we really want to price our town out of the ability of our wonderful multigenerational residents to even stay? Should they have to pay for “wants” when many are on fixed incomes and cannot afford to do so?
Jean Kitchin, Janie Sellers, Tom Barrett, Hunt Shuford, Betsy Wilcox, and Joe Bogdahn
Blowing Rock Civic Association Executive Committee
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