|Option may appear on county tax bills|
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Franklin County taxpayers may be given the option of making a donation to the school system on their tax tickets this year.
The Franklin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed the possibility of including on county real estate and personal property tax tickets an option that allows taxpayers to donate extra money to the school system.
That donation would be separate from the taxes, which still have to be paid in full.
Blackwater District Supervisor Cline Brubaker suggested the plan earlier this year during budget talks.
"Some say they want to pay more taxes (for the school system)," said Brubaker in May. "If you want to give to the school system, include the amount with the tax bill. Give them the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is."
Brubaker said county tax tickets that are mailed out in the fall could include a provision for allowing extra money earmarked for schools.
His suggestion came on the heels of a public hearing on the proposed budget for 2013-14. At that hearing, many speakers said they would not mind paying more in taxes for the school system.
At that time, the board instructed staff to look into the idea and the findings were presented to the board Tuesday.
Two counties, Culpepper and Spotsylvania, responded to a request from Treasurer Lynda Messenger regarding the acceptance of donations with tax payments.
Culpepper allows donations for several programs, including the library, animal shelter, parks and recreation multi-use trails and programs for children and seniors.
About $12,000 was collected last year.
Spotsylvania County permitted contributions to three groups -- schools, parks and recreation, and purchase of developments rights.
Franklin County Finance Director Vincent Copenhaver told the board that the donations would be easy to track.
"We can track that revenue with a separate code," he said. "We are fine on our end (moving forward with the plan and keeping tabs on the money)."
The funds collected through the donation process would be presented to the board in February 2014 for appropriation to county schools, he said.
Gills Creek District Supervisor Bob Camicia said he wanted to make sure that taxpayers understood any donation made is "above and beyond" what their tax bill is.
"That may confuse folks," he said, adding that wording on the tax bill should make it clear the donation is a separate payment.
Blue Ridge Supervisor Bobby Thompson agreed with Camicia that there should be no confusion, and that any money donated would be extra funding for the school system.
"I guess it's understood or presumed that whatever is collected (for the schools) would be above what the county appropriates to schools," he said.
Thompson also cautioned that any donations would be "one-time" money for schools since the funds may or may not be given the following the year.
Thompson also was concerned that other agencies may want to be included in the donation option, creating a record-keeping issue.
But board Chairman David Cundiff said it's up to the board to limit the groups.
Copenhaver said any taxpayer making a donation would have to write a separate check (from the regular tax bill) and would receive a separate receipt.
He also suggested that any donor receive a "thank you" letter from the school system that could be included with the receipt.
An example of the possible working on the tax ticket was presented to the board.
The wording said: The Franklin County Board of Supervisors would like to give you the opportunity to make a contribution to the Franklin County School System. Please make your check payable to the Franklin County Treasurer - this check should be a separate check from the check for your regular tax payment. Credit car payments cannot be accepted for donations. You may have questions regarding the tax implications of this voluntary contribution. These questions are best answered by a tax attorney or accountant.
The statements could be printed on all 2013 real estate and personal property tax bills.
Brubaker said in May changing the tax tickets to include the donation option and administering the extra money would cost the county about $1,200.
"We could do it one year, and if we don't get our $1,200 back, we wouldn't do it again," said Snow Creek District Supervisor Leland Mitchell at that time.
On Tuesday, the board took no action on the proposal.