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March 15, 2017

County fiscal ’18 budget public hearing Thursday

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Three of the five county supervisors, Holder Trumbo, Chris Butler and Rick Gerhardt ponder construction options in a March 9 joint meeting with the school board.
I’m not hearing much at this point from folks. I get the generic ‘Don’t let our taxes go up’ type statements.
— Holder Trumbo, Scott District supervisor
Public Hearing
• What: Fauquier County’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget, effective July 1.

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17.

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

• Agency: Board of supervisors.

• Next: The supervisors will conduct last scheduled budget work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in Warren Green Building in Warrenton. On Thursday, March 23, the board plans to adopt the fiscal 2018 budget, tax rates and five-year construction plan.
Fauquier’s board of supervisors will conduct a public hearing Thursday on the county’s fiscal 2018 budget.

The March 16 hearing will start at 7 p.m. in Fauquier High School at 705 Waterloo Road in Warrenton.

The board on Thursday, March 23, plans to adopt a new budget, capital improvements plan and tax rates.

Under County Administrator Paul S. McCulla’s proposed $310.9 million spending plan, Fauquier government would create nine new, full-time positions and might raise the real estate tax rate 2 cents.

> Summary of proposal at bottom of story

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The board also will hold a public hearing on the proposed construction — or capital improvements — plan Thursday.

Mr. McCulla’s 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.

The supervisors on Thursday also will conduct a public hearing on 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.

In a 16-day span, the two boards 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.

Other proposed, 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.

• A new Warrenton branch library, which would cost $14.7 million.

• 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.

While the supervisors have made no decisions about those projects, a majority appears to support some level of funding for broadband.

The fate of a new Warrenton library seems uncertain at best.

For now, Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District) remains the proposal’s only advocate on the board.

While a new Warrenton library branch would cost $14.7 million to complete, the proposed capital budget includes $10 million in county funding for the project.

The library hopes to raise the difference.

The proposed library would be built on county government-owned land at Waterloo and Chestnut streets.

The nonprofit Friends of Fauquier Library has committed $100,000 to the project. Drawing from its trust fund, the library board has pledged an equal amount.

On Tuesday, Warrenton Town Councilwoman Linda “Sunny” Reynolds (At-Large) asked the panel’s Finance Committee to consider donating up to $1 million toward the project.

The Finance Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, March 20, in Town Hall.

Mr. McCulla’s budget calls for nine new, full-time positions, including:

• A broadband project manager.

• A parks and recreation supervisor for the Central Sports Complex, scheduled to open in 2018.

• A Fauquier fire and rescue department captain, who would oversee the Upperville Volunteer Fire Co. By spring, the company will give up its charter and transfer all of its assets — real estate and equipment — to the county. That will mark the first time a Fauquier volunteer fire and rescue company will turn over its operation to county government.

• Four sheriff’s patrol deputies.

• Two commissioner of revenue deputies. 

While Mr. McCulla’s proposal does not include a real estate tax rate hike, the budget plan will be advertised to allow that option.

Fauquier’s real estate tax rate stands at $1.039 per $100 assessed value. A two-cent increase would put the rate at $1.059.

If the supervisors approve that increase, the average homeowner would pay about $64 more a year in real estate taxes. The owner of real estate worth $321,300 this year pays $3,211 this year.

A two-cent increase in the levy would generate $2 million per year in tax revenue.

That additional money would give the board “utmost flexibility” to help fund potential budget changes, including the county’s construction program and to match a federal grant to hire career firefighters/EMTs in January, according to Mr. McCulla.

The board last year approved a 2-cent increase to the real estate tax rate, costing the average homeowner an additional $128.52 a year.

County officials in the fall will learn whether Fauquier will get a federal grant to hire 15 career firefighters/medics early next year. Spread over three years, the $5.7-million grant would cover only salaries and benefits. Fauquier’s match during that period would total about $2 million.

The county eventually plans to hire 43 career firefighters/medics during the next five years.

The county’s emergency services department has 82 medics.

“I’m not hearing much at this point from folks” about the proposed budget, Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott) said. “I get the generic ‘Don’t let our taxes go up’ type statements.

“I haven’t had anybody cheerleading for a particular cause, other than broadband. I’ve had a couple of people tell me they’re really anxious for us to pursue broadband. And, I’ve had a few that said ‘Hey, I’ve got broadband in my neighborhood. I don’t see why I have to subsidize it for everybody else’.”

Fauquier Proposed 2018 Budget by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Silii · March 17, 2017 at 7:09 am
Has there been an analysis of federal dollars received in Fauquier County? It should go without saying that, given the extreme budget cuts proposed by the administration, Fauquier County could take a serious hit in many areas - schools, environment, social services, agriculture, low cost housing, Community Development Block Grant funds used for meals on wheels, after school programs, early intervention for infants with disabilities, rides for seniors and disabled to medical appointments, etc., to name a few. Regarding the schools, perhaps a closer look should be taken before embarking on an expensive building plan for a new middle school. Federal education and HHS funds affecting students are on the chopping block beginning with FY 2018 funds. Young children from poor and low income families may no longer receive Head Start and EPSDT services. Other cuts will affect instruction, teacher training, after school programs... The county will have to make up these federal cuts. The EPA has proposed a $68 million cut to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup fund which will impact Fauquier County. Severe cuts to agricultural programs are proposed.

This is what the voters in Fauquier County wanted when they voted for Trump. Now, however, county planners better keep in mind that severe cuts to vital programs across the board are coming. We might not feel the cuts until 2019, 2020, but they are coming. If Fauquier County wants to even level fund in several years, nothing except a steep personal property tax increase and business tax increases will fill the gap. Think about it.
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