Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
Budget proposal includes tax increase; supervisors divided on what increase they’ll support
King George supervisors would have to raise the tax rate by 10 cents to fully fund the School Board request.
They made it clear during a work session on Monday that’s not going to happen, but they differed on how much increase they could tolerate.
County Administrator Travis Quesenberry presented expenditures for 2012–13 that total $63.6 million. Problem is, the county has $61.3 million in revenue.
It faces a $2.28 million shortfall if it funds the school’s entire request, Quesenberry said.
Board members didn’t take any action, but instructed Quesenberry to build a 2- to 4-cent tax increase into his proposed budget. He’ll do that and present the paperwork to board members by Friday. (NOTE: The story in the newspaper said he would build a budget with a 4- to 5-cent tax increase. That was incorrect and my mistake. Several proposed increases were batted around Monday night.)
Supervisors also asked the county administrator to schedule another joint meeting with the School Board so the two groups can talk face to face about the spending plan.
Joe Grzeika doesn’t support any increase in the tax rate. He suggested the School Board take a look at its central office staff, those he described as “the most senior high-priced people” and former principals who were moved out of their posts for a reason.
“I don’t know if we have an obligation to continue to pay people if they’re not performing their function,” he said.
Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. represented the opposite spectrum. Several times over the years, he’s advocated raising the rate by a penny or two each year, so there would be funds on hand for times like these.
“I think we ought to raise taxes every year just so we have it,” he said.
Brooks said he didn’t want to cut the school budget that drastically because he has an 8-year-old in the system. That’s why he believes regular increases would benefit the county.
“A lot of taxpayers won’t agree with that,” Grzeika said, “and I don’t either.”
“That’s because your kids are out of school,” Brooks responded.
“I have never agreed with just unilaterally raising taxes,” Grzeika said.
Dale Sisson Jr. doesn’t want the tax rate, which is 50 cents per $100 of assessed value, to increase by 4 or 5 cents. But he thought it would be detrimental to school operations to cut $2.28 million from its budget.
Ruby Brabo, who said she wanted to hear opinions from residents on a proposed tax increase, said she has been frustrated in the past by “mixed signals” from the School Board. When members have been told to trim their budget, “they cut things that affect the quality of education,” not the “fun stuff,” such as extracurricular activities or teams.
“My sentiments exactly,” said Supervisor John LoBuglio, adding he supported full funding for the schools two years ago, then was surprised when the system didn’t spend all of its budget the following year.
“You really want to believe them, but then you learn that’s not the real case a year later,” LoBuglio said.
Like other localities, King George is still waiting to hear how much it will get in state funding and the impact of Virginia Retirement System expenses.
County departments trimmed the budget by reducing money to outside agencies by $367,624, most of which came from eliminating the FRED bus service, and reducing the following budgets: emergency services by $73,000; Sheriff’s Office by $72,000; county administrator’s office because of retirement and overtime reduction by $72,000; and fire and rescue by $20,000.
Key increases included $426,700 to pay off some economic-development debt, and $493,000 for jail and juvenile detention debt services.
The budget for general properties also is increasing by $100,000 for the Sheriff’s Office building, which was scheduled to open last August but still isn’t finished.
And while the real-estate tax rate hasn’t been established, customers of the King George Service Authority can count on higher rates next year. For the fourth year in a row, water rates are scheduled to increase by 5 percent; sewer rates, by 10 percent; and connection fees, by 5 percent.
It’s part of the county’s plan to make the service authority self-sufficient. Fees are scheduled to go up by the same rates through 2015.