Jul 21, 2017


Right-to-Work amendment fails, tax break amendment passes

Albemarle voters approve bond referendum


In July, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 in favor of requesting the circuit court to allow a special November election for a bond referendum.

The first amendment proposed to the Virginia constitution, which would incorporate Virginia’s right to work law into the constitution, did not pass, receiving less than 47 percent of the vote. In addition, almost 80 percent of Virginia residents voted to pass an amendment to the state constitution giving property tax breaks to spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty.

In Albemarle county, a bond referendum also passed with 73 percent of the vote.

The bond referendum will provide $35 million dollars of funding to school development projects through general obligation bonds. It is estimated the referendum will raise the tax rate by 1.3 cent for a medium-priced home in Albemarle County.

The tax would be increased annually by about $37 dollars, Phil Giarmita, strategic communications officer for Albemarle County Public Schools, said.

Giarmita said general obligation bonds are preferable to other sources of funding.

“General obligation bonds are backed by the full state of credit of the county and only can be authorised in a public vote,” Giarmita said. “Because of those two factors, the interest rates that the borrower can obtain are generally very favourable.”

Tim Shea, legislative and public affairs officer for Albemarle County Public Schools, said if the referendum passed the school system would be able to move forward with their proposed plans.

“If it passes, we will go to market and sell the bonds to investors and then we can move forward with the projects," Shea said.

Shea said the primary benefit of a general obligation bond is the more competitive interest rates gained once the bond has gone to referendum and people have voted on it.

This is the first bond referendum of its kind in over 40 years, Shea said. Both Shea and Giarmita agreed that because the referendum was successful, there could be a higher likelihood of more of its kind appearing in the county in the future.

The proposed right to work amendment would make it harder to change or alter the requirements associated with the right to work, University Law Prof. George Cohen said.

“If the amendment is not adopted, the Virginia legislature could change or abolish the right-to-work provisions in the current statute,” Cohen said in an email statement.

University Law Prof. J.H. Verkerke said the amendment would simply further enshrine a principle within Virginia’s constitution.

“The Virginia Code already prohibits precisely the conduct targeted by the amendment,” Verkerke said. “Thus, the only purpose of the amendment is to insulate that policy from legislative reconsideration.”

The approved amendment providing tax exemptions for spouses of certain emergency services providers mean those spouses of first-line responders like firefighters, search and rescue and law-enforcement personnel could be made exempt from property taxes if their spouse was killed in the line of duty. However, if the spouse were to remarry, the exemption would be nullified.

Cohen said Virginia’s constitution currently prevents the legislature from exempting any property from taxation unless the state constitution specifically allows for a certain exemption.

“A number of exemptions already exist, including one for surviving spouses of U.S. military personnel killed in action,” Cohen said. “The amendment would treat surviving spouses of fallen local police and firefighters — and some others — similarly.”

Published November 9, 2016 in News

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