By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
As if to emphasize the dire budget constraints facing the county, Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors adopted a new budget approach for fiscal year 2013, which begins in July. A budget committee comprised of two supervisors, the interim county manager, and the finance director produced a balanced budget with a nearly twenty percent real estate tax hike over FY2012, but one designed to be stable for three years.
On February 3rd, the committee proposed a real estate tax rate of $.68 per $100 of assessed value, which might translate to a revenue neutral $.90 rate once the reassessment is completed later this year. Board Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia) has consistently argued for a “sustainable” tax rate that will take into account the county’s large debt service and provide some predictability for county residents. The current proposal appears to do that.
The proposed budget would make significant cuts in several county programs. For example:
- · The county’s contributions to the school division would be reduced by $1.2 million, or 8.2 percent. Reportedly, the school board has considered requesting a $2 million increase over FY 2021;
- · The county’s refuse convenience center would be closed;
- · Two constitutional officers’ (Treasurer and Commissioner of the Revenue) would be cut deeply enough to cause possible layoffs ($81,000 combined);
- · Other cuts would come from Parks and Recreation and Social Services (another $91,000).
The budget anticipates additional payments to: the Virginia retirement system, the county’s self-insured medical program, an employee bonus program, and an expanded public safety budget for fire and rescue.
The county also is looking to establish a capital reserve fund. The initial contribution for both the county and the school division would be about $600,000, and apart from vehicle expenditures, any left over funds would roll over into the next fiscal year. This approach would reverse long standing county policy of funding maintenance and replacement of county assets through the operating budget.
It is not clear whether or not the new budget approach will be successful. Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan attacked the proposal stating that it would pit one department against another, and when supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) heard the size of the proposed school contribution cut, she noted that these numbers could change.
But by making two supervisors part of the process, it will be difficult for the other three to stray very far from the overall parameters of the budget. Supervisor Robert Ullenbruch (Palmyra), a member of the committee who ran on a “keep taxes low and cut spending” platform, already has accepted a 19 percent tax increase. The big winners on the Board so far are Mr. Kenney, who achieved his “sustainable budget” objective, and supervisor Joe Chesser (Rivanna) who has long sought to develop the budget along more professional lines.
Budget work sessions will continue over the next two months with final adoption slated for mid-April.
William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
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