A full house of Waynesboro citizens awaited city council with concerns regarding the evaluation process for vehicles in light of the increase in the tax rate on personal property.

The Council explained that the city recently ordered and is installing a new computer system, which somehow had to be paid for. For the past 15 years, Waynesboro residents enjoyed a 50% reduction in the assessed value of their vehicles. Due to the installation of the new computer system this year, the city found that they were unable to provide the same reduction.

“The current tax assessment rate isn’t what bothers me. It is how the city comes to their assessment value,” said Anthony Green of Waynesboro.

His three-year-old truck does not appreciate in value, it only depreciates over time.

“Seeing that my truck is not going up in value, I’m coming to the council to see if there’s a new way that the commissioner of the revenue or the council can address the way we come to how we value vehicles,” Green said.

Kathy Keller, also of Waynesboro, expressed the same concern.

“I don’t have a problem with the rate,” she agreed. “It’s the evaluation. I do not have a clean, retailed 2005 Subaru. I’m paying taxes, then, on something I don’t owe.”

Keller acknowledged that the money for the computer installment has to come from somewhere, but said that this does not seem like the right way to obtain it.

A third Waynesboro man mentioned his thoughts that perhaps Waynesboro should have an appeals process similar to that in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County, and the city of Falls Church.

“If a person gets a tax bill and they said, ‘My vehicle’s not worth this,’ you can take it to a car dealer and get an assessment, then take it back to them and present it. They make a judgment and they mail you the adjustment bill if you get it,” he said.

In the wake of a special meeting with the Waynesboro School Board last month about the city schools’ desperate need for more city funding, the Council announced the funding for Waynesboro Schools in three target areas: stipends and staff development; funding for year-round and extended year school programs; and adult education and family literacy.

As set by the school board, $28,659 was appropriated for staff development and stipends.

A total of $100,000 was appropriated for funding of consultants, materials, supplies and stipends for extended year and year-round school programs through a planning grant.

An Adult Literacy Federal grant will provide $8,449 for adult education and family literacy. The funds will support regional adult basic education, English language acquisition, high school equivalency programs, and workforce training programs.

Waynesboro Mayor Terry Short made additional remarks about the council’s upcoming goals addressing the funding deficiencies.

“We have some of the lowest paid positions in our region, from our police officers, fire department, municipal workers, as well as our school teachers,” he said.

While this problem took longer than one year to manifest, it will not be fully fixed in one year’s time, according to Short. However, the council is actively working toward improvement in their upcoming goals.

Nov. 16-24 was officially proclaimed Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in the city of Waynesboro.

Debra Freeman-Belle, executive director of the Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry (WARM) and vice chair for the region’s homeless response system, presented the council with local issues of hunger and homelessness, and appealed for them to take action steps in helping to combat the crisis as the Thanksgiving season approaches and induces individuals to reflect on their blessings.

“The awareness that I want to bring to you guys is that many of our neighbors are living forced to choose between basic necessities like purchasing food, paying rent, and going to the doctor,” Freeman-Belle said.

Reportedly 42% of Waynesboro citizens live below the poverty line. Several hundred homeless individuals are served through shelter and outreach programs each year, Freeman-Belle said. She added that the high number of students who live in poverty and rely on free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs to get healthy meals reflect this.

“We ask that you consider assigning a representative of your body or staff to attend our monthly meeting of service providers held at Valley Mission on the second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. Having someone from your team participating in these conversations, joining the change that our organizations have embarked on, and contributing to our strategies to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in our community is crucial,” she said.

Freeman-Belle also asked the council to work directly with leaders combating hunger and homelessness when considering municipal plans related to community development, planning and housing.

Finally, Freeman-Belle appealed to the council to help build stronger bridges between the organizations that help the hungry and homeless and local public housing authority.

“At this time, there are not many housing authorities actively participating with the group. Their participation is key,” she said.

Short read the official proclamation of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and added an additional appeal to the community.

“As the mayor, I also call upon the citizens, government agencies, public and private institutions, businesses and schools in Waynesboro to re-commit our community to increasing awareness and understanding of the hunger and homelessness problem in this city, and educate the public about the many reasons people are hungry and homeless, and the accessible services for all affected citizens,” he said.

According to Freeman-Belle, Waynesboro Church of the Brethren is set up to shelter 20 individuals at this time.

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