The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Stafford cuts tax rate by a penny
BY KATIE THISDELL
Stafford County cut its real-estate tax rate by one cent before adopting a fiscal 2013 budget at Tuesday’s meeting, and extended the due date for summer bills for property owners.
A tax rate of $1.07 per $100 of assessed value was approved 6–1, with Jack Cavalier voting against it.
The median Stafford home value based on the 2012 reassessment is $248,000. Under the current rate, the tax would be $2,678. The one-cent cut reduces that by about $25. Each penny on the rate brings $1.24 million to the county.
The county’s $247.3 million budget was dubbed the Thomas Compromise after Supervisor Bob Thomas’s efforts at a budget committee meeting last week. It was approved 4–3.
The schools allocation is $106.5, a $5.2 million increase from last year’s funding. The board appropriated the school budget in one lump sum, removing categorical funding, which had identified money for the Instruction and Administration categories.
The budget includes 2.5 percent raises for county employees, effective Jan. 1. The board wants the School Board to OK 2.5 percent for school employees, and said it budgeted “sufficient funds.”
County Administrator Anthony Romanello will implement the state-mandated Virginia Retirement System 5/5, which means employees must pay their share of retirement contribution, but will receive a salary increase in an equal amount.
The budget includes three additional positions in the Sheriff’s Office for court security deputies and emergency communicators.
It also cuts the Fire & Rescue Department’s budget by $125,000 through savings created by the departure of Fire Chief Rob Brown. The interim seat will be filled by Assistant Chief Mark Lockhart.
Voting against the budget were Cavalier, Paul Milde and Cord Sterling. “I’m not comfortable with the risk we’re taking,” Sterling said. He said the proposed budget was unsustainable. “Just to fund this budget next year will require an increase of $5.3 million.”
That figure includes projects identified in the Capital Improvements Plan, county raises and adding $500,000 in salaries for seven firefighters, which have been covered by a federal grant for three years.
The adopted budget includes a one-time fund of $300,000 for parks projects. This amount will then be used to cover the grant for Fire & Rescue in fiscal 2014.
The board had delayed votes on the budget, tax rate and Capital Improvements Projects at its last meeting, citing unknowns in the pending General Assembly budget.
Cavalier, who served two previous terms on the board, said he wasn’t comfortable with the process.
“To have this pretty much worked by a subcommittee and then delivered to the board on the day of the vote isn’t full transparency. We didn’t have any real knockdown, drag-out budget work sessions.”
Chairwoman Susan Stimpson said that assessment was not fair.
An emergency ordinance pushes the due date for taxes to June 19, to ensure a 30-day billing window.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975