No tax increases planned for county budget in FY2021

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, March 24 — On Tuesday night, the Page County Board of Supervisors voted to advertise all county tax rates at their current levels.

The real estate tax rate stands at 73 cents for every $100 of assessed value. Other tax rates include (per $100 of assessed value):

  • $4.59 — Personal Property;
  • $2 — Machinery and Tools;
  • $2 — Motor Carrier;
  • $0.73 — Mobile Home;
  • $0.50 — Aircraft.

By voting to advertise the current rates, the supervisors may lower the rates, but they can not increase them in the next budget. A one-cent adjustment in the rate generates an additional $202,831 for the county.

Page County Administrator Amity Moler noted that Page’s real estate tax rate of 73 cents was “middle of the road” among other rates in the region, while the county’s tax rate on personal property was the third highest.

Overall, expenses for the 2020-21 fiscal year are projected at just over $69 million, a 2.3-percent increase (or $1.6 million) over the current fiscal year projected to end June 30 at $67.5 million.

Among the key expenditures considered in developing the proposed FY21 budget, Moler’s presentation highlighted:

  • Stabilization of Jail Operating Budget;
  • Increases to social services funding as part of stabilizing recent state mandates and service needs;
  • VRS biannual increase (9.2 percent to 10.7 percent);
  • Includes 3-percent pay raise for employees (partial state match);
  • Reinvestment into capital equipment.

On the other side of the coin, revenues could increase for the county through better efficiency in several departments and additional revenue at the Battle Creek Landfill, among other line items. 

“Our cash flow has improved greatly,” Moler told supervisors during their March 17 meeting.

The county’s fiscal stability has steadily improved in recent years, according to the report, with four consecutive years of fund balance growth. The stronger financial standing could help the county find savings in longterm financing that will soon be coming for large capital projects, such as radio upgrades and increasing jail capacity.

Other positives noted in the budget presentation were:

  • A 5.6-percent decrease in health insurance premiums (already established) that could result in $720,000 in savings;
  • A projected increase of $650,000 in additional revenue through rising tax assessments;
  • Solid waste at the landfill projected to generate $195,000 in additional revenue (and that figure could increase to more than $200,000 with the newly signed, 10-year Rappahannock trash contract);
  • EMS revenue recovery funds generated an additional $100,000;
  • Changes to telecommunications resulted in $20,000 in reoccurring savings;
  • Projected $20,000 increase from collection of meals tax and auto decal fees.

The county administrator instructed departments to submit a budget with no service increases, no new positions and no new vehicles paid for with general fund dollars.

Two key areas of discussion during the budget presentation focused on the sheriff’s office and the school system.

Some of the funding priorities for the sheriff’s office include:

  • Stabilization of the Jail Operating Budget through joint reforesting of prisoner counts;
  • Two replacement vehicles with police packages;
  • Investigations building renovations;
  • New motor vehicle impound lot;
  • Absorb cuts to School Resource Officer funding.

Of the sheriff’s projected $7 million budget for FY21, nearly $4.2 would come from local funding. The state is projected to provide $2.3 million, with another $428,571 coming through grants.

Page County Public Schools is currently requesting $590,444 in additional local funding above the current fiscal year. Last year, supervisors allocated an increase of $304,000 in local funds.

However, one of the slides of Moler’s budget presentation last week focused on “School Funding and Requirements by Year.” The chart compares the amount of local funding versus what is “required” from 2016 to 2020. In the current fiscal year, the data shows the county is paying nearly $4 million more than what is “required” in local funds.

The supervisors also reviewed a chart showing what the school system had left in carryover funds at the end of each fiscal year during that time period:

  • 2016 — $106,253
  • 2017 — $424,074
  • 2018 — $316, 256
  • 2019 — $0

Among the departments listed as “non-mandated” in Moler’s budget presentation were:

  • Crime Prevention — $217,046
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) — $130,146
  • Recreation — $102,164
  • Economic Development — $85,368
  • Compaction sites (trash) — $80,158

The cost of the five “non-mandated” totals $614,882.

If the schedule presented last week holds up, the supervisors hope to hold at least one more budget work session prior to a public hearing and vote on the tax rate on April 7.

A public hearing for both the school and county budget is scheduled for April 21, with final adoption scheduled for May 5.

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