Absent State Budget Impact, Greene to Advertise Two Cent Tax Increase

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

After receiving the County Administrator’s Proposed FY21 Budget in their March 10th meeting, the Greene County Board of Supervisors hoped to have the State budget numbers by their Thursday, March 12 meeting when they were required to set the advertised tax rates.  This did not occur and Supervisors agreed (4-1 Lamb opposed) to advertise an $.84 Real Estate Tax Rate.  [Important note, by state code, supervisors can vote in a lower tax rate than advertised but may not increase above the advertised rate]image

Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor prepared the FY21 budget based upon level funding from the State.  If increased funding from the state is approved, then some of the cuts that Mr. Taylor presented to arrive at a balanced budget will not be required and can be added back to the budget.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Taylor outlined the budget process to project revenue, review requested budgeted expenses vs. actual expenditures of this year and making cuts where funds have not been spent and the major cost increase of 15.3% for health insurance for non-school employees. The goal is not to have an increase in the personal property tax rate next year after increasing it by $.05/$100 value last year, up to $.82/$100 value.

One of the comparisons that Taylor presented was the personal property tax rate of surrounding counties which shows Greene County the 4th out of 9 counties and the city of Charlottesville even after the increase of $.05/$100 last year.

The starting point showed the following deficit:

Projected Revenue (assuming same personal property tax rate) $35,512,324

Requested Expenditures ($39,510,265)

Short ($ 3,997,941)

Same use of fund balance at 2020 $ 2,085,155

Still short for new requests ($ 1,912,786)

Taylor summarized the larger increases at Schools $596k, Regional Jail $135k, Health Insurance $125K (*) and Salary Increases $76K for a total of $932K. (*) The increase in Health Insurance is a net increase as Mr. Taylor has recommended an increase to the employee share of the cost of $64K. It has been a decade since the employee share of health insurance has been increased. Even with the increase the cost of healthcare to the employees is the lowest in the area.

As for increases in headcount for all except the school system, an increase of $759k was requested broken down as follows:

1 Commonwealth Attorney, 4 deputies, 2 dispatchers, part time at Animal Shelter, part time Emergency Services, 1 Clerk of the Works, 1 Maintenance, part time Extension Office, 1 Social Services.

In order for the budget to balance (assuming no change to the state funding) the following changes were made:

Reduced the fund balance used to $1,963,221

Increases in Revenue $ 310,690

This closed the gap to ($1,724,030). Here are the proposed changes to the budgets as submitted in order to balance expenditures to revenues:

School division requested $ 596,148

Four deputies requested $ 286,336

Two dispatchers requested $ 118,701

Reductions capital, vehicles, other $ 722,845

Total Reductions $1,724,030

The final area that Taylor wanted to highlight were the capital items that would require funding for a total of $320,485:

Courthouse Repairs $ 152,000

Radio Consultant $ 99,500

Solid Waste Bay Floor $ 56,985

Waste and Waste Water Permitting $ 12,000

Taylor stressed that the hope is that the state will agree on county funding by this Thursday and allow the finalizing of the budget with whatever is provided by the state on Thursday, March 12th. Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) expressed concern that any reduction is state funding would require a tax increase to raise revenue to cover the costs that have been reviewed tonight. Here is hoping that Richmond can get their work done on Thursday so that all the counties, Greene County included, can go about planning for next year.

 

UPDATE FROM THURSDAY, MARCH 12th MEETING:

The Greene County Board of Supervisors met on Thursday, March 12th at 5:30 in hopes of having a decision from Richmond on the states funding to Greene County. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The Free Enterprise Forum reached out to Greene County administration (Planning Director Jim Frydl and Finance Director Tracy Morris) late Friday, still no budget information has been forthcoming from Richmond.

So, the Supervisors ploughed ahead with two goals in mind – 1) setting the maximum tax rate for fiscal year 2021 and 2) hopefully finish the budget work for 2021. Several changes to the budget that County Administrator Mark Taylor presented were discussed.

The first issue was the disparity of wage increases of 2.3% for county employees (not in the school system) vs. 1.3% for constitutional officers and their staffs. The extra 1% would equate to approximately $35k which was agreed to rather than lowering the 2.3% and raising the 1.3% to meet at the same figure with no increase in cost.

The other change to the budget was made in the Social Services Department and fortunately Social Services Director James Howard was in attendance at the meeting. He spoke to the addition of a Social Worker at a cost of $65k and stated that by rearranging workload he could hire an assistant (at a lower cost) to do some of the clerical work that the Social Workers were doing and thereby lower the funds requested by his department by $15k, the net difference of the two positions.

So, the net impact of the two changes was plus $35k less $15k to equate to an increase of $20k. Chairman Bill Martin asked Taylor and Morris if they felt they could find reductions in the rest of the budget to offset the $20k increase and they both agreed that they felt that could be done. This would then mean no change to the budget in total.

The next step that the Board took was to decide what tax rate to advertise – this is a “not to exceed” rate and does not lock the Board into charging this rate. The consensus of the Supervisors was that balancing the budget (assuming the same state funding) would be able to maintain the same tax rate. However, the uncertainty of the state funding caused most of the Supervisors to have concerns and it was proposed that a rate of $.84/$100 of assessed value be advertised.

The only opposition to advertising the $.84 rate was from Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville). Lamb first asked if he could abstain from voting on the issue but it was clarified that he could only abstain if there was a conflict of interest – which there was not. He was firm that he did not want to advertise anything higher than the current $.82 rate. The vote was 4-1 in favor of the $.84 rate with all other tax rates in the county to stay the same.

The final action of the Board was to see if any further changes to the budget needed to be made. At that time School Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh asked to speak to the Board. She expressed her concern with the reduction of the schools request by $215k and she was unsure where the reductions would come from. Martin stressed that this was a tough budget year coming off an increase of $.05 the previous year and hoped the school could contribute as had other departments in helping to keep the tax rate the same.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) stressed that more work can be done on the detail of the budget up until the finalization on May 12th. The issuing of the state funding may provide an opportunity to review the budget if there is an increase in the funding to Greene County that would be able to offset additional expenditures.

 

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online

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