By Carol Vaughn —
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors at the Feb. 16 meeting sent a proposed ordinance about using recreational vehicles for habitation back to the Department of Planning for possible changes.
The board voted to continue the matter after Supervisor Harrison Phillips asked about the possibility of permitting RVs for temporary habitation on property automatically when a building permit is issued for home construction, without requiring a special use permit, as is the case now.
Three people spoke at a public hearing in January about the ordinance, which as written would have limited use of travel trailers for habitation on a construction site to one year unless the Board of Zoning Appeals approves an extension, with a special use permit required.
Planning staff last fall, at the request of the BZA, began work on amendments to the ordinance to limit extended habitation in travel trailers.
Most recent cases before the BZA related to people living in a travel trailer on the property during construction of a home, resulting in the planning commission recommending tying long-term habitation in travel trailers to construction of a residence and that the travel trailers must be licensed and inspected for safety.
Supervisor Comments On School Budget
One Accomack County Board of Supervisor member commented on the school district’s ratings on a website and called the proposed school budget’s use of funds for facilities instead of personnel “misdirected” at the Feb. 16 board of supervisors meeting.
Supervisor Paul Muhly said a real estate website used by people considering a move to the county shows low ratings for the school district compared to nearby Maryland schools.
He mentioned in particular people coming to work in the Wallops area.
On a scale of one to 10, half of Accomack schools rated below average, 40% rated average; and 10% rated above average on the greatschools.com website, as referenced by the real estate website zillow.com, according to Muhly.
Chincoteague High School was the highest rated high school, at six out of 10; Nandua High School was rated four; and Arcadia High School was rated two, Muhly said.
“If this is a report card on the school system, which I think in a way it is, the monies that you are asking for for buildings are being misdirected. The money should be put into upgrading the teaching, getting teacher’s assistants, better teachers,” he said.
Muhly noted the same website showed the high school in neighboring Snow Hill, Md., rated eight of 10, the middle school rated six, and the elementary school rated eight.
“Where would you send your kids?” Muhly said.
School Superintendent Chris Holland responded, saying students who graduated from Accomack schools have done well.
“Our kids are going to great schools,” he said.
“This year, we want to invest in human capital,” Holland told the board in a presentation prior to Muhly’s remarks.
The proposed school budget includes $1.8 million for the local share of a 5% pay raise.
The budget also includes more than $252,000 for two music/band teachers and two art teachers; nearly $190,000 for three secondary English teachers; around $63,000 for a career and technical education teacher; $50,000 for additional coaching and activity supplements; $53,200 for an additional position in the finance department; and $50,000 for a study of classified and administrative staff salaries, among other additions.
Included on the revenue side is around $1.2 million in cost-of-competing-adjustment funds from the state, which the General Assembly must approve.
The school district has 790 full-time employees, according to Holland.
Other proposed expenditures include textbooks, vehicles, and items to maintain facilities.
Accomack County Schools Finance Director Beth Onley said the cost-of-competing adjustment, if approved, “should go to great lengths” to address salary shortfalls with Worcester County, Md., “which is very hard to do because they have Ocean City.”
She noted last year’s one-time COCA funding, $1.6 million, went entirely to increasing pay for teachers and assistant principals.
Onley said if a NASA engineer were considering a move to Accomack County, “I would think that possibly if I was looking to move here with my family I would look beyond a real estate site and I would look at the DOE (Virginia Department of Education) — we have report cards, we have accreditation status statistics, and we have a variety of measures at the Virginia level.”
Reassessment: Real Estate Values Up From Previous Estimate
The projected increase in real estate values from the 2022 reassessment has increased from 8.96% to 9.51%, according to Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason.
That means around $60,000 more tax revenue for the county, with around half of that going to the school district in accordance with a longstanding formula.
The percentage is the average increase countywide.
Three districts, Captains Cove, Chincoteague, and Onancock, showed much higher increases in value than the average after the reassessment.
Values in Captain Cove increased 30.8%; in Chincoteague, values increased 19.2%; and in Onancock, values increased 18.8%.
No districts showed a decrease in value.
The significant increases in real estate values resulted from the escalation of sales prices starting in the latter months of 2020 and continuing through 2021, according to Hurdle.