By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
What does a 5-0 vote mean for a budget by the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors?
Last time an unanimous vote passed a budget Shaun Kenney was chairman. Joe Chesser was the Rivanna District supervisor. The five supervisors voted for a real estate tax decrease in that 2013 budget calendar.
What did a 5-0 vote mean in 2013? Everyone was kind of happy and everyone was kind of unhappy.
The total amount allocated to the 2013 school budget was more than Don Weaver (Cunningham District), Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District), Kenney and Chesser wanted. It was less than current chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) wanted. The tax rate was lower than Booker wanted, higher than the four gentlemen wanted.
Booker was chastised by her supporters for compromising down. The conservative and conservative leaning supervisors heard it from their supporters on why not cut taxes more.
It is beginning to look like the 2015 supervisors want to bring the restricted pie menu back.
The air of unanimity started in force at the March 11 work session. Ullenbruch brought in an idea of a real estate tax rate of $0.895 per $100 assessed and a personal property tax rate of $4.50 per $100 assessed. The current personal property is $4.15.
The next revenue idea is raising fees residents pay. That includes increasing the vehicle and motorcycle sticker fees by $5. That would get higher as the night progressed. (Fluvanna no longer issues a sticker but the fee is still called the ‘vehicle sticker fee.)
“I can agree with that. That’s a no brainer,” said Weaver, the most conservative supervisor, about raising fees.
Why are supervisors throwing in so many revenue ‘ingredients’ into this year’s ‘budget pie’? The budget has a lot of forces on it.
Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) said, “Let’s not fool ourselves, our budget is a tight budget.”
It is so tight, even Weaver doesn’t argue a real estate rate increase is inevitable. He said he could support a real estate rate under $0.90 so that bumped the rate from Ullenbruch’s $0.895 to $0.899. It stayed there the entire almost five hour work session.
The personal property tax rate was in question. Weaver said he wouldn’t go to $4.50. He said he preferred $4.25. It was quickly shown the board couldn’t get the votes at $4.25 because it wouldn’t be enough revenue. Weaver listened to a $4.35 personal property rate by the end of the night.
So what increases were brought into expenditures?
The FY16 budget proposal from county administrator Steve Nichols took 10 percent from operations across every department, the vast majority were already operating very close to the margins. Supervisors advertised a real estate rate that corresponded to a five percent cut. At the work session, all operation budgets for departments was restored.
Supervisors also increased money for Lake Monticello Fire and Rescue to help pay its expansion efforts. Also increased the Commonwealth’s Attorney budget for a paralegal.
The big ticket item: schools. At one point, four supervisors had the school budget fully funded. That would’ve been a $900,000 increase over last year. Then that dropped to $800,000 in an effort to compromise.
It wasn’t compromise enough without adding to the $0.899 real estate rate and $4.35 personal property rate.
“Seven [hundred thousand] on the schools is too low,” said O’Brien. “Seven fifty (750,000) on the schools.”
While it wasn’t what was requested but sources close to the School Board Administration office have said administrators never thought to get the $600,000 that was in the supervisors budget weeks ago.
“[Next year], that’s the bad part, because you don’t know about next year,” said Weaver. Until Fluvanna diversifies its revenue base, increasing tax rates will be a yearly tradition.
So what’s the revenue sources looking like after the work session?
Real estate tax rate of $.899 per $100 assessed.
Personal property tax rate of $4.35 per $100 assessed.
Vehicle fees increased by $5 – $10 each.
Supervisors will vote on a budget to advertise at the March 18 meeting at 7 p.m. At 5 p.m. the supervisors will have a work session to iron out the budget for a final time before the regular meeting.
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.