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March 19, 2013

Fauquier supervisors prepare for budget vote

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Interim Superintendent Sandra Mitchell makes the school board's case for a funding increase during the March 14 “work session” with county supervisors.
There is a reluctance on the part of this board to go to 3-1/2 cents (more on the real estate tax rate). I am getting a getting a fearful beating from my folks because of what is going on in Washington and what is going on in Richmond.
— Holder Trumbo, Scott District supervisor
Budget Hearing
• Topic: Proposed county budget of $268 million and possible real estate tax rate of $1.005 for fiscal 2014

• When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19

• Where: Warrenton Middle School auditorium

• Agency:
Fauquier County Board of Supervisors

• Next: Supervisors final budget work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, with budget and tax rate adoption at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 28
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
A year ago, Fauquier’s county supervisors and school board barely could remain in the same room during budget deliberations.

It got nasty.

Last week, the boards conducted a lively — but civilized — joint work session. After the meeting ended, the county’s elected representatives lingered in the Warren Green Building to chat and shake hands with their counterparts.

The school board certainly won’t get everything it wants under Interim Superintendent Sandra Mitchell’s recommendation for a $5.1-million increase in county funding.

But, for the first time in several years, the supervisors might increase their financial support for county schools.

County Administrator Paul McCulla has recommended a $2 million increase for schools in his proposed budget, which would require a 3-1/2-cent hike in the real estate tax rate for full funding.

The supervisors will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget at 7 o’clock tonight at Warrenton Middle School.

County government expects local revenues to grow by about $2.8 million in fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.

Mr. McCulla proposes 2-1/2-percent raises for county government employees.

Dr. Mitchell proposes 2-percent raises for school system employees.

In recent budget “work sessions,” the supervisors have asked Mr. McCulla to prepare scenarios for real estate tax increases of as little as 1 cent, which would produce about $937,000.

Several factors will require more revenue, according to Mr. McCulla:

• The hiring of 22 new firefighter/medics this fiscal year, adding about $1 million in expenses.

• An expected $1.1-million health insurance cost increase for the county government workforce, with employees picking up about $200,000 of that.

• $200,000 more in annual debt payments for the Fauquier High School renovations.

“There is a reluctance on the part of this board to go to 3-1/2 cents,” Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott District) said of Mr. McCulla’s proposed tax increase during the March 14 meeting with school officials. “I am getting a getting a fearful beating from my folks because of what is going on in Washington and what is going on in Richmond.”

Despite the uncertainty, Mr. Trumbo added that the supervisors probably would not “flat fund” the school system again in fiscal 2014.

But, he said rising health insurance and other costs make him cautious.

In theory, the school system might get about $1.73 million more in county funding, if the supervisors were to appropriate 62 percent of the expected local revenue growth for education. Schools account for that percent of county spending.

“I’m not sure what I’d cut, but I’m closer to Mr. McCulla’s numbers than yours,” Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn (Cedar Run District) told school officials, include David Jeck, who will start here as superintendent in May.

“I just don’t have a good feel for it yet,” Supervisor Peter Schwartz (Marshall District) added.

“I really appreciate what Mr. McCulla has done to recommend $2 million” more for schools, Dr. Mitchell said. “But, $2 million is half of what we need.”

The school system faces a potential health insurance cost increase of almost $1.6 million.

Dr. Mitchell also has proposed increased spending to make salaries for bus drivers, nurses, office staffers and other “classified” employees more competitive. In some cases, those jobs pay more in Culpeper County, she said.

School board Chairman Donna Grove (Cedar Lee District) reminded the supervisors that they have cut funding for education dramatically in recent years.

“We’ve opened two schools (Kettle Run High and Greenville Elementary) in the same period of time and not seen the funding,” Mrs. Grove added.

The supervisors will adopt a budget and set taxes rates on Tuesday, March 26.

Board “work sessions” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, and Thursday, March 21, will produce the final numbers.
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farmbum · March 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm
Attract business, get off our home owners and land owners backs.

Stick to your budgets.
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