Proposed tax hikes to pay for Salem High School renovations

Residents could see real estate, property, trash tax increases

SALEM, Va. – Better security, improved classrooms and roof renovations are just some of the upgrades Salem city officials would like to see at the high school.  Now, they're considering increasing taxes to fund the improvements.

Karen Johnson lives in Salem and both of her kids were Spartans.

"It is an old high school. I think it does need to be renovated," Johnson said. "My younger sibling graduated from there back in the '80s so I realize how old it is."

Construction could start as soon as summer 2020. The price tag for the city would be $32 million. To come up with that money, city officials are proposing a 0.02-cent raise in real estate taxes, a 0.15-cent raise in personal property taxes and a $3 per month raise in the trash collection fee.

"That's a lot of increases," said Sue Egolf, who works in Salem. "I think it's for a good cause to renovate the school, but what happens after the school's been renovated?"

"I think it's a great idea," Johnson said.

A family with a $200,000 home and $15,000 car would pay about $98 more a year.

"To pay an extra $30 or $40 to improve your high school and something you can see and maybe it'll benefit your kids or grandkids or neighbor's kids, I think it only makes sense," said Mayor Randy Foley.

Once the school's debt gets paid down, the extra money would support other city infrastructure, such as snowplows, the fire and police departments, the Salem Civic Center or the Moyer Sports Complex.

"You've got to continue to take care of them and buy trucks and vehicles and things of that nature to deliver the services that the citizens expect," Foley said.

There will be a public hearing at the end of May before the city will vote to approve the tax increase.

Johnson said no one likes paying more, but everyone would benefit.

"We get good services here in Salem. That's why we've stayed here for 25 years," Johnson said. "The trash service is always wonderful. Police presence is always wonderful. The school system's great. I think it's well worth it. What's $100 a year?"

The school district is holding public tours of the high school on May 9 from 6 - 6:40 p.m. Then at 7 p.m., school officials will show everyone who attends plans for the school's renovation.

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