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

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State budget hold-up could delay June tax deadline

Stafford’s Board of Supervisors had originally hoped to pass its budget at Tuesday’s meeting. But then they decided to delay until a special meeting next Monday, to ensure they’d have information from the state.

But now, because the state budget failed today in the General Assembly, Stafford’s budget will be in limbo a little longer. “It’s putting a burden on local governments,” Chairman Susan Stimpson said. “It’s our hope that they will come together and they will vote and make a decision on this.”

County Administrator Anthony Romanello says that now the county is in limbo. The special meeting called for Monday is canceled, and now the board may either call another special meeting, or discuss the budget at their regular May 1 meeting.

A delay in adopting a budget and setting a tax rate will likely cause the regular June 5 deadline for tax bills to be pushed back. It takes nearly three weeks after supervisors vote for county staff to prepare calculations and mail bills to property owners. Traditionally, those bills arrive in mailboxes by May 5, allowing 30 days before their due date of June 5.

Supervisors still have a ways to go before they reach a balanced budget, as they worked through a spreadsheet during committee meetings today and yesterday. One big factor that still needs to be discussed further is the proposed $1.08 real estate tax rate. During Monday’s budget committee meeting, Stimpson supported reducing that by one cent. A penny on the tax rate brings in $1.24 million for the county; for the average homeowner, that accounts to about $25 on their bill.

Since April 6, when Romanello presented his proposed budget, which included adding four positions in the county, six more positions have been suggested. “I do have concerns there,” Supervisor Cord Sterling said.

Those include four full time supervisor positions in the emergency communications center, one or two part-time positions in the Commonwealth’s Attorney office, and a construction finance manager. This position would aid with accounting and contract management, and funds could be offset by project costs. Already proposed was a position in the tourism department for planning the county’s 350th yearlong celebration, along with three sheriff’s deputies to provide courthouse security.