By Meg Hibbert
Salem car owners could get money back on their personal property taxes after July 1. In a work session Monday night, Salem City Council members spent 30 minutes talking about the best way to set up what amounts to a rebate.
Council directed City Manager Jay Taliaferro to work with the Commissioner of the Revenue to set up a system that could mean a return to all car owners, with funds coming from federal COVID money the city is scheduled to receive.
The amount could be 50 percent was Council’s consensus. Car owners , should still go ahead and pay personal property taxes, it was brought out in discussions with Counsel Michael Lockabee, because the change would not take place until after July 1 and personal property tax is due May 31.
It would be a one-time rebate and only on cars, not motorcycles or company-owned cars, Councilman Bill Jones emphasized.
Councilman Randy Foley noted “We’re in this predicament because we have free money,” referring to figuring out how to give citizens some tax relief.
In the regular session Monday night, Council recognized Van Gresham for his 46 years of service on the Board of Zoning Appeals of which he is still an active member.
Mayor Renee Turk read a proclamation on Gresham’s accomplishents, including being a staunch supporter of the Salem Sports Foundation since 1977. She pointed out his father was one of the foundation’s founding members.
“Van is the epitome of a true Salemite,” she said.
Council heard from two citizens in the public hearing on setting the real estate tax rate for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The rate remains the same at $1.20 per $100 of assessed value.
Robert Andrews encouraged Council to lower the rate in the long run. “Any tax burden is going to come at the pain of the citizens,” Andrews said.
Jim Soderburg agreed with Andrews, pointing out that taxes have more impact on people with fixed incomes. “The increase in Social Security has been eaten up by one car,” he said.
It was a busy night for Council, that included approving 16 items including:
- Tax rates on real estate, tangible property, machinery and tools;
- Electric Rate Tariffs;
- The Book of Rates;
- Miscellaneous fees;
- Job classes and pay rates;
- The Salem School Division’s budget for the next school year;
- Appropriation of funds to the Virginia Risk Sharing Association grant;
- Appropriation grant funds awarded by the Virginia tourism Corporation, and
- Fiscal Agent agreements with Court-Community Corrections and Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy.
Council heard from two citizens, Patricia Clark and John Breen, during the Citizen Comment period at the start of the meeting.
Clark urged Council to do something to clean up car lots, especially one across from her Maple Street home. Vice Mayor Jim Wallace noted he believes that particular one is designated a salvage yard, not a car lot. He said perhaps it could be screened.
Breen asked Council to give citizens more response instead of only listening during the comment period. He suggested neighborhood round tables, crowd scoping and submitting questions for citizen opinions on the November ballot.
In rezoning matters, Council voted 4-1 with Wallace dissenting to change zoning from Highway Business District with condition to HBD with amended conditions to allow retail sales. The property is Ridgewood Gardens shopping center, where a vendor wants to open a vaping and tobacco shop. This was the second reading.
Council meeting lasted 67 minutes, adjourning at 7:37.