By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Administrator presented his fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday (2/4).
Steve Nichols, county administrator, kicked off the heart of the budget season with a budget that included increasing the tax rate by four percent. The increase in revenue is to help maintain county services, provide stable school funding, invest in the infrastructure and other county priorities.
“The only thing that has gone down (in price) the last few years is gas and big screen TVs,” Nichols said.
The budget increases are for the jail, CSA, emergency management and schools.
Originally the jail was projected to be an increase of over $700,000 [See related post here]. The jail board still has not adopted a budget but projections from the subcommittee have the increase pegged at $350,000 and that could even go lower. The CSA budget is unpredictable based on participation. If one child over projection enters the program, the budget can need to be increased.
The emergency management budget increases but so could revenue, potentially. Providing 24-hour contract services comes to a total cost of $615,000 . The night service portion is six percent more than the day services the county authorized in FY15.
If the board votes this spring to start emergency transport cost recovery, that will help offset costs of emergency services. Nichols put in $150,000 into the revenue portion of the budget in anticipation the board will vote to implement some form of a cost recovery program.
“We believe it is a revenue stream … between $400,000 and $600,000,” said Nichols but conservatively budgeted the $150,000 amount.
School administration sent a budget proposal with a local funding request of over $1 million more than last year. Nichols budget only bumped it up by $330,000.
The extra amount, like many things, fell to the cutting room floor.
That list included a paralegal for the Commonwealth’s Attorney, two full-time E911 communication positions, salary increases for county staff and others.
Across county departments, most suffered a 10 percent decrease in operational budget. And still the tax rate would need an increase.
What will loom over the county for at least the next 15 years is the county’s debt load. This year’s budget includes $400,000 increase in debt service for middle school renovation projects approved last year.
Existing county and school debt amounts to over $7.6 million. That’s the equivalent of 28 cents on the tax rate.
In Nichols’ budget includes water system for Zion Crossroads and James River Water Authority Costs. The Zion Crossroads water system will increase the county debt service but it is viewed as a way out from continually increasing tax rates.
This year, Fluvanna is projecting a five-year forecast to see how future budgets will look, conceptually, based on what decisions are made this year. It includes a two percent rate of inflation along with anticipation of certain upcoming projects.
The projection based off of Nichols’ budget shows a real estate tax rate of $1.05 in FY17, $1.06 in FY16 and FY19 and a $1.11 in FY20.
“Even if they are ballpark figures, it is alarming,” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District).
Nichols replied, “It is absolutely alarming.”
The reassessment brings last year’s $0.88 real estate tax rate to an equalized rate of $0.86. Nichols’ proposed balanced budget he presented Wednesday would need a $0.895 real estate tax rate. The personal property rate of $4.15 was not changed.
The Board of Supervisors will have to operate a bit differently this year because of the reassessment taking affect. Supervisors will have to advertise a maximum tax rate for 30 days. That rate is the absolute maximum and can only be decreased.
The supervisors will set that maximum rate on Feb. 18 with a public hearing in the end of March.
Supervisors are scheduled for work sessions and/or regular meetings for each Wednesday until April 15.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
Photo Credits: Fluvanna County