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May 14, 2020

CARES Act will provide $6.2 million for county

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
County officials want clarification about whether they can uses the federal funds for costs ranging from personal protection equipment for first responders to infrastructure that allows employees to work from home during the pandemic.
We don’t have a lot of clear direction from the state, in terms of how we can use the money. Hopefully, within the next week, we hope to have greater guidance from the state as to what’s allowed and what’s not.
— County Budget Director Erin Kozanecki
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fauquier County government soon will get $6.2 million in federal funds to cover coronavirus-related expenses.

The county expects to receive the first of two equal payments from the CARES Act in early June and the second in early fall, Management and Budget Director Erin Kozanecki told the board of supervisors in a Thursday afternoon budget work session.

Mrs. Kozanecki also gave the board an update on the fiscal 2020 and 2021 budgets that painted a qualified but somewhat encouraging financial picture for the county in the months ahead.

> Document at bottom of story

Fauquier will allocate about $1 million of the funds to The Plains, Remington and Warrenton.

Based on a population formula, Warrenton would get 14 percent, Remington just under 1 percent and The Plans about one-third of 1 percent of that sum, Mrs. Kozanecki said.

Unspent funds must be returned through the state. But it remains unclear whether money the towns can’t spend would revert to the county, the budget director said.

Separately, Fauquier schools will receive $695,782 in CARES Act funds for COVID-19 response purposes. Of that, $45,335 will go to private schools in the county.

Fauquier’s public school administrators will consider a range of uses for $650,000 — including summer programs, technology and special education, Public Information Officer Tara Helkowski said.

“Right now, we are in a fluid situation contingent on many factors, including decisions made by the governor and Virginia Department of Education,” Ms. Helkowski said. “We will have additional concrete information in a few weeks.”

Apart from addressing public safety expenditures, it remains unclear specifically how the county can spend CARES money, Mrs. Kozanecki said.

“We don’t have a lot of clear direction from the state, in terms of how we can use the money,” she said. “Hopefully, within the next week, we hope to have greater guidance from the state as to what’s allowed and what’s not.”

But could CARES Act money be spent to “offset the cash-flow costs we have to provide distance-learning and telework capabilities” because of the coronavirus? Mrs. Kozanecki asked.

Could a portion of the county’s sum be given to the school system for its distance learning expenses? she added.

“We don’t know the answer to that,” Mrs. Kozanecki said.

When it learns specifically how the money can be used, staff will return to the board with an “allocation” plan, she said.


Budgets already trimmed

Mrs. Kozanecki gave the supervisors a 20-minute overview of the fiscal 2020 and 2021 budgets.

While Fauquier’s financial outlook, like the nation’s, remains uncertain because of the coronavirus, county government in March took a series of cost-cutting measures — a job freeze and the elimination of overtime pay, for example — that already have realized $750,000 in savings, she said.

Mrs. Kozanecki also noted that sales tax revenue for fiscal 2020, which ends June 30, could total at least $130,000 more than budgeted.

Fauquier’s real estate values will remain unchanged until the next countywide reassessment in 2022. Because of that, taxable real estate values largely will remain unchanged and therefore generate a predictable amount of revenue.

All and all, the county could be in a surprisingly stable position because fiscal 2021 budget, which begins July 1, assumes a 53-percent — or $4.9 million — reduction in the estimated revenue growth, according to Mrs. Kozanecki. The county supervisors and staff had time to reduce next year’s proposed budget before adopting it March 26.

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.

May 14 BOS FY 2020 and 2021... by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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