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March 17, 2017

$311-million spending plan draws just 8 speakers

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Supervisors Holder Trumbo, Chris Butler, Rick Gerhardt, Mary Leigh McDaniel and Chris Granger listen to budget testimony Thursday night at Fauquier High School.
I believe this county and previous boards have been extremely negligent in planning for the future.
— Joanne Duncan
Budget Hearing
• What: County Administrator Paul S. McCulla’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget.

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 16.

• Where: Fauquier High School, 705 Waterloo Road, Warrenton.

• Agency: County board of supervisors.

• Topics: Warrenton middle school options, public school funding, plans for new Warrenton library branch, broadband internet

• Length: About 25 minutes.

• Next: The supervisors will conduct last scheduled budget work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in Warren Green Building in Warrenton. On Tuesday, March 28, the board plans to adopt the fiscal 2018 budget, tax rates and perhaps a five-year construction plan.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Just eight people spoke Thursday night during the Fauquier board of supervisors’ fiscal 2018 budget hearing.

The hearing at Fauquier High School lasted only about 25 minutes. Topics that citizens spoke about included:

• Replacing or renovating Warrenton and Taylor middle schools.

• School funding.

• Plans for a new Warrenton library.

• Expanding broadband internet service to Fauquier’s rural areas.

Warrenton resident Joanne Duncan, 47, criticized supervisors for failing to support the school board’s efforts to address aging middle schools since at least 2005.

“It’s been talked about for 12 years,” with little result, said Mrs. Duncan, who has a fifth- and eighth-grader in the school system.

“I believe this county and previous boards have been extremely negligent in planning for the future,” she said.

Renovating Warrenton and Taylor middle schools or building a new 650-student school to replace them “won’t solve the problem,” said Mrs. Duncan, who trusts the school board to make the right decision and believes the supervisors should do the same.

Otherwise, “Why are (the school board members) here for?” she said.

Mrs. Duncan served on a 45-member committee that studied options last fall and recommended construction of a 1,000-seat consolidated middle school in Warrenton at an estimated cost of $55 million.

> Proposed budget summary at bottom of story

David Horne, 74, of Hume has no children in Fauquier County schools.

Mr. Horne said he and others with similar circumstances pay more than their fair share of the public education tab.

“Why must I fund (the education of) three, four, five” public school students? he said.

A “separate” school tax might be a more equitable way of spreading education costs among residents, Mr. Horne suggested.

Lewis Ray, 74, of Midland objected to plans for a new Warrenton library, which would cost an estimated $14.7 million.

“The only problem with our library is no parking,” Mr. Ray said. “We don’t need to build a new library to solve a parking problem.”

The library at 11 Winchester St. has 13 parking spaces but should have 85, according to architects who have studied the issue for county government.

Under County Administrator Paul S. McCulla’s proposed $310.9 million spending plan, Fauquier government would create nine new, full-time positions in fiscal 2018, which starts July 1.

Mr. McCulla’s budget proposal would not require a real estate tax rate. But, the public hearing advertisement include a 2-cent increase should such a need arise as the board completes its deliberations.

His budget proposal includes about $182.9 million for county government and $137.3 million for schools.

County government spending would increase by $5.4 million, up 3.1 percent from this year, according to the proposal.

The school system would receive almost $2 million more in local money.

Neither county government nor school system employees would get raises under the proposed budget.

Thursday’s public hearing also included the proposed five-year capital improvements plan.

Funding requests for construction projects total $254.3 million.

The supervisors and the school board continue to wrestle with issues related to replacing or renovating Warrenton and Taylor middle schools.

The two boards in recent weeks have discussed three possible scenarios:

• A $55-million, 1,000-student, consolidated middle school in Warrenton.

• A $43.3-million version with “seats” for 50 fewer students.

• A 650-student middle school at an estimated $37.5 million.

A March 9 work session between the two boards ended with no agreement about a mutually acceptable plan.

After a supervisors’ budget work session Tuesday, the issue remained unresolved.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m., Monday, March 20, at Liberty High School to further discuss options.

Besides the middle school options and the Warrenton library, other big-ticket construction projects include:

• Extending broadband internet service to Fauquier’s rural areas. Serving up to about 9,000 homes, such a network could cost $20 million. The supervisors believe it would pay for itself.

• Renovations that could result in relocating Fauquier’s Community Development Department from the Warren Green Building and the third floor of the county courthouse to the John Marshall Building at 14 Main St.

Under that scenario, Fauquier’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and associated uses would move from the John Marshall Building to the county courthouse’s third floor.

That project would cost $2.1 million.

Thursday night’s turnout disappointed some supervisors.

“I begged” people to attend, Supervisor Chris Butler (Lee District) said. “I couldn’t share it more on Facebook.”

“I thought we’d hear more about the middle school issue,” said Supervisor Chris Granger (Center), who expected at least 30 speakers. “I was really surprised we didn’t hear more about broadband. I thought we’d hear from proponents of broadband.”

The supervisors will conduct their last scheduled budget work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.

On Tuesday, March 28, the board plans to adopt the fiscal 2018 budget, tax rates and perhaps a five-year construction plan.

Fauquier Proposed 2018 Budget by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Jim Griffin · March 18, 2017 at 7:51 am
In retrospect, I should've attended, but it has seemed that Gerhardt has the pro-broadband argument well in-hand and any further speeches are overkill. Of course our county needs broadband infrastructure! Why not follow in the path of other counties in Virginia that have successfully addressed the issue?
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