Salem City tax increase met by reservations, praise

Higher taxes will fund school renovations, capital improvements

Officials want to invest in the city's future.

SALEM, Va. – Salem City Council approved a tax increase Monday night, met by reservations and praise from residents.

City Council held a public hearing and approved a tax hike to fund $36 million in repairs and renovations at Salem High School as well as capital improvements for city infrastructure.

Real estate taxes are going up 0.02 cents, personal property taxes are increasing 0.15 cents, and the trash collection fee will increase by $3 per month.

"I am opposed to tax increases that seem reactionary," said Josh Kier, a lifelong Salem resident and private school teacher. 

Kier spoke during the public hearing about how he hoped the council would take a closer look at overall debt and financial planning in the future.

"After the list of capital improvements are done, we're going to be asking for another increase," Kier said, "That's not something I think we should get in the habit of doing."

David Foster lives in Salem and said tax increases are necessary.

"We are used to a high level of services and a good quality of life in Salem and we should be willing to pay for that," Foster said.

Foster is an avid recycler and asked city leaders to reconsider how they calculate the trash collection fee.

"The trash tote thing is a very regressive tax," Foster said. "Long-term, I would like to recommend that the city planners think about ways where the trash fee is based on use."

Council members also approved the city's budget, including $80,000 more for the school division.

Council agreed the school repairs and tax increase are long overdue, which is why they tried to spread out the revenue sources.

The president of the Salem Council of PTAs thanked city leaders for their support for the school system.

Salem residents may have to dig deeper into their wallets, but those who spoke up at Monday's meeting said it's not a waste of their hard-earned cash.

"I'm excited to see what they do at the high school and I'm excited to see how far this money goes," Kier said. "But I'm also excited to see a happy medium and raise taxes, but also do what they need to do to position ourselves better financially moving forward."  

Monday's vote is just the first vote. Council is expected to formally approve the tax hike and budget at the next meeting on June 24.

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