Katie Thisdell reports on news from Stafford County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 540/735-1975.
Budget Details…The Morning After
Yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting was the shortest of my (admittedly short) career. The evening session started at 7 p.m. and was over by 7:30. Of course, the real action was in the afternoon session when the budget was approved, but even that happened relatively quickly and with little fanfare.
1) The county will take the same approach next fiscal year that they did this fiscal year. They will withhold 7% of all county funds to be appropriated after a mid-year review in January.
2) Some people I talked to yesterday raised questions about the timing involved with adopting the budget. The second meeting of each month (as yesterday was) has an afternoon session designated as a “work session,” which means that there is no afternoon public comment period, and no public hearing on the budget. The budget has been passed the same way for at least the past two years. Much of the timing of the budget process is a matter of law.
3) Before the budget was adopted, supervisors listened to a presentation concerning credit ratings given by consultants from Public Financial Management. The presentation suggested ways that Stafford could increase their rating from AA- (Fitch) to AA+ (Fitch). Recommendations included long-term compliance with financial goals like meeting the prescribed 10% fund balance “reserve” each year, increasing that fund balance goal to 12%, implementing multi-year financial planning and fully funding pension and other post employment benefits.
Supervisors followed some of that advice by creating two new reserve funds – a Revenue Stabilization Fund and a Capital Improvements Reserve.
4) The Sheriff’s Office and Fire & Rescue received “level funding” from the county, meaning that they were budgeted the same amount of money for the next fiscal year as they were in the current fiscal year. County Administrator Anthony Romanello’s original proposed budget recommended doing the same for schools, but that did not happen. The approved local school “transfer” is $100,693,774. Last year, schools received $102,736,533.