The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Spotsylvania budget has no tax hike
RELATED: Find more SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY news on Jeff Branscome’s Spot News blog.
Spotsylvania County residents won’t pay more in taxes for their homes and vehicles this year, based on a proposed budget presented Tuesday evening.
County Administrator Doug Barnes is recommending that the real-estate tax rate stay at 88 cents per $100 of taxable value for the budget year that runs July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. Each penny on the tax rate generates about $1.2 million for the budget year.
Under that proposal, the owner of an average home worth $169,933 would pay $1,495 in real estate taxes. That amount could increase next year, when the county is scheduled to issue new assessments.
Barnes is also proposing that the personal property tax remain at $6.37 per $100 of assessed value.
The majority on the seven-member Board of Supervisors, who took office in January 2012, made low taxes a big part of their campaigns. Last year, board members approved a real-estate tax rate 2 cents less than what Barnes had recommended.
The proposed spending plan, including debt payments, is about $441.8 million, or $8.1 million less than the current budget. But county staff say there’s actually more money to cover ongoing expenses because the budget approved last year included several unusual one-time payments.
Here are some of the budget’s key expenses:
$600,000 for nine additional firefighters. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually 21 firefighters short of a fire and rescue staffing plan supervisors approved last year. Barnes has pushed back the hiring of most of those firefighters by about a year.
$9.8 million for a new public-safety radio system, which enables police, firefighters and others to communicate with each other. The county is scheduled to approve a contract for the system next month. Barnes says it will cost up to $20 million over several years.
He is recommending that the county defer several capital expenses—such as upgrades to Marshall Park and replacement of a tower fire truck—until next year to free up money for the system. Also, $3.9 million in reserves would be spent on the radio system so the county wouldn’t have to borrow money for it.
$210,000 for seven part-time courtroom deputies. Barnes is proposing to reduce the hours of 10 existing courtroom deputies and 28 other part-timers—who work from 30 to 35 hours a week—so the county will not have to offer them health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. He stressed that the new deputies would not offset those lost hours.
$52,474 for two part-time parking enforcement deputies. Additional revenue from fines is expected to more than pay for those positions.
The school system would receive $114.8 million under the proposed budget—the same amount the division received last year. But Barnes says the system will actually have $1.7 million more to cover expenses due to recently completed debt payments and refinancing of existing school debt at lower interest rates.
Still, that proposal provides $8.2 million less than what Superintendent Scott Baker says the division needs. Baker is recommending 2 percent across-the-board raises and restoration of 14 teaching positions. So far, he plans to suggest $500,000 in savings to help fill that hole.
The budget for utilities capital projects, which covers expenses like water treatment plant upgrades, would increase from nothing this year to about $18 million. That amount would be covered by revenue from water and sewer rates and fees, which supervisors increased slightly this month. Projects that would be funded include $5.8 million for improvements to the Ni River Water Treatment Plant and $2.5 million in repairs to Motts Run Dam.
NOT IN THE BUDGET
Merit raises for county employees. In fact, those employees will pay more for health insurance due to increasing rates. Barnes has also proposed that the employee share of family health plans increase 1 percent—to 17 percent. The county would cover a 1 percent state-mandated increase to employee contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.
$450,000 in additional funding that was requested by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.
No additional school resource officers.
The county’s five-year budget forecast includes large funding shortfalls if the county doesn’t increase taxes. Barnes is asking supervisors to develop a guide to set expectations for future spending plans.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
March 12: Tax rates advertised
March 19: Spotsylvania County School Board presents
its proposed budget to supervisors
March 28: A public hearing on the budget and tax rates
April 9: Adoption of the 2013–14 budget