By. Brian Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors budget numbers are coming into focus and it appears an 11 percent real property tax rate increase is possible.
The supervisors spent March 12 in work session going over Steve Nichols’, county administrator, budget proposal and adding or subtracting from it. Nichols’ budget included a real property tax rate of $0.85 per $100 assessed.
Supervisor additions included money for Sheriff’s department, Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire and Rescue, parks and recreation, library staffing, economic development advertising, debt service for school capital improvement projects and increase county staff pay.
The supervisors found deductions in school resource officer funding and county staff health costs.
All told, the deliberations increased the tax rate another penny and a half.
The bulk of the contentious talks and tax increase centered around what to do with how much county contribution to the School Board budget. Also on March 12, the School Board approved a budget that will request $1.678 million more than FY14.
Nichols included $1 million than the previous year. Supervisors began the talk by picking where each stood individually.
“No department got what they asked for,” said Bob Ullenbruch. He said he didn’t like the $1 million figure but would be ok with it in the budget.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said he would like to see $1.3 million to $1.4 million over FY14 baseline.
“I just know where they’ve been,” said Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) as he announced he was in favor of $1.5 million additional funding.
Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) concurred with Sheridan.
Don Weaver (Cunningham District) approached it differently. Instead of building the budget and finding the suitable tax rate, he wanted to build a base budget then decide the tax rate to drive the rest.
“Where that tax rate ends up is going to change things; the county side and the school side,” said Weaver as he looked over the increases.
With each penny of real property tax making up $260,000, the budget with changes made during the work session jumped to $0.88 per $100 assessed. Even that still left a $19,000 deficit.
“It was easy to predict this was going to happen,” said O’Brien, referencing last year’s decision to cut taxes.
A look at the school historical numbers show the county still is not at 2009 local contribution numbers and neither is the state or federal governments. The proposed FY15 state budget is near the FY08 level. The FY15 federal numbers are the lowest in 10 years and 13 percent smaller than the second lowest number, occurring in 2005, in the past decade.
“We are being asked to make up for state and federal cuts,” said Ullenbruch.
Supervisors will formally hear the School Board presentation on March 19. Following the school budget presentation, supervisors will hold their normally scheduled meeting. The agenda includes setting an advertised budget, both personal and real property tax rates and the capital improvements plan.
The advertisement of the group begins a two week timeline of advertisement that culminates in a public hearing on the group. Following the public hearing supervisors can vote on approving each. Once a tax rate is advertised, supervisors can only pass an equal or lower rate. If supervisors wish to raise from the advertised rate, the timeline must be restarted.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to advertise a rate with wiggle room. For example, if the workshopped $0.88 budget is the settled amount amongst at least three supervisors, seeing an advertised rate of $0.89 would not surprise those close to the board.
“This budget season we did not look at alternative revenue sources,” said O’Brien.
The idea of different taxes or fees has been brought up before by Ullenbruch. Possibilities include business/professional/occupational licenses, emergency revenue recovery and lodging/meals tax.
“We can work at starting to stabilize this,” said O’Brien.
The March 19 meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom.
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