vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Budget vote could be put off

Over the next 24 hours, Stafford Supervisors will try to balance their fiscal 2013 budget. But if they don’t, they may hold off on approving the budget and 2012 tax rate until a special meeting, possibly early next week.

At today’s Finance, Audit and Budget Committee, Supervisors Susan Stimpson and Bob Thomas said they may not be able to figure out the remaining $600,000 or so that still needs to be balanced in the budget, which would go into effect July 1. Committee members worked in a spreadsheet to determine what could be cut to achieve a balance budget.

Stimpson said she wanted to be sure the county covers all state mandated increases to the school system, which could include about $9.5 million for the Virginia Retirement System. ”I think that’s fair, what else are they going to do, they don’t levy funds,” she said at Tuesday’s afternoon meeting. They looked at increasing the local transfer to schools by $1.125 million above the proposed $4 million increase for fiscal 2013 — bringing the total to just over $133 million. The school budget accounts for 53 percent of the county’s general fund expenditures.

Stimpson also recommended cutting one cent from the proposed real estate tax rate of $1.08 per $100 of assessed value. ”It’s their money,” she said about families in Stafford. “They’re facing increases in gas, in fuel, at the grocery store, in everyday life. That’s every bit as valid as a piece of that pie.”

The median home value based on the 2012 reassessment is $248,000. The annual tax based on the proposed $1.08 rate would be $2,678. A one-cent decrease would reduce that bill for homeowners by just about $25. A penny on the rate brings in $1.24 million for the county.

Supervisor Ty Schieber, who joined the board in January after serving on the School Board, worried about the impact of cutting that amount from the budget. “I hate taxes as much as anybody,” Schieber said, “but can we really afford to go that direction?”

Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the budget, tax rate and CIP during Tuesday’s 3 p.m. work session, according to the posted agenda. A letter from Commissioner of the Revenue Scott Mayausky and Treasurer Laura Rudy explains that they need the tax rate set by Tuesday to begin the billing process. “Every day beyond April 17th the Board takes to make a decision is one less day we have to ensure data integrity and quality,” the letter reads.

Stimpson and Thomas said a special meeting could be set for the beginning of next week.

Click to enlarge graphs.