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March 25, 2020

Proposed county budget reduced by $9 million

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The board of supervisors conducts last week’s “virtual public hearing” on the proposal 2021 budget.
We understand the magnitude and the impact on all of our citizens.
— County board Chairwoman Mary Leigh McDaniel
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
As expected, Fauquier County’s revised fiscal 2021 budget proposal includes no tax increase because of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The county board of supervisors pledged to hold the line on taxes last Thursday during its “virtual” public hearing on the spending plan.

“We understand the magnitude and the impact on all of our citizens,” board Chairwoman Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District) said of the virus during the March 19 hearing at the Warrenton Community Center at 430 E. Shirley Ave.

Ms. McDaniel added: “None of the supervisors wants to do anything that will add to the current burden of our citizens.

Prepared before the coronavirus outbreak, County Administrator Paul McCulla’s original $357.9-million budget plan called for a 3.6-cent real estate tax hike.

Mr. McCulla on Tuesday afternoon released a $349-million budget that scraps the proposed tax rate and strips about $9 million in spending from his original plan.

The supervisors will conduct a “virtual” work session on Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Warrenton Community Center and adopt the budget, tax rates and fiscal 2021-25 capital improvements plan.

Mr. McCulla’s revised 2021 plan provides:

• No new county funds for the school system.

• No new county government employee positions.

• No salary increases for county government’s 700-plus employees.

But plan does include additional funding to meet state and federal government mandates and satisfy contractual obligations.

Because of the coronavirus’ effects on the economy, Mr. McCulla’s new budget plan anticipates a decline in personal property tax, sales tax and certain county government fee revenue.

Fauquier’s real estate levy will remain at 99.4 cents per $100 of assessed value under the revised proposal. That means the annual tax bill for the “average” single-family home valued at $378,000 will stay at $3,770.

Revenue generated by the proposed 3.6-cent real estate tax hike would have funded expanded emergency services and the public school system.

Mr. McCulla’s original plan included 15 more firefighter/medics. Those jobs would have allowed around-the-clock staffing seven days a week at Goldvein Volunteer Fire Department station. The proposed budget also would fund career staffing at The Plains and Lois stations 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

The retooled budget plan doesn’t include those positions.

Superintendent David Jeck’s proposed operating budget for public schools totals $155.8-million — up 5.1 percent for fiscal 2021.

Dr. Jeck’s plan called for an increase of $3.8 million in county funding. The local share of education funding would rise 4.1 percent to $96.9 million.

Mr. McCulla’s original budget proposal gave $2.8 million in new county money to the school system.

But public schools would get no additional local funding under the county administrator’s revised plan. That would leave the county’s support for public education at $93 million in the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

Mr. McCulla’s new budget proposal also scraps a 1.5-percent cost-of-living and 1-percent merit raises for county government employees.

His revised $349-millon spending plan calls for additional $18.2 million, up 5.2 percent from this year.

Construction projects, including $17.5 million for the planned expansion and renovation of Cedar Lee Middle School at Bealeton, account for a large portion of that increase.

The updated capital improvement plan for fiscal 2021 also includes $4 million to expand broadband internet to the county’s unserved and underserved areas.

The five-year CIP totals $106.9 million, with an additional $181.3 million designated for “future” years. 

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the supervisors conducted a “virtual” budget public hearing on March 19 to comply with “President Trump’s urging that citizens of the United States avoid gatherings of more than 10 people,” Mr. McCulla said.

That effectively barred citizens from attending the annual budget public hearing — a first in Fauquier history.

Traditionally held in the Fauquier High School auditorium, the budget hearing often attracts several hundred people.

The 10 present during the virtual hearing included four supervisors, Mr. McCulla, Mrs. Kozanecki, three technicians and a Fauquier Now journalist providing “pool” photo coverage for The Fauquier Times as well.

But citizens could livestream the hearing and email comments that would be read during the hearing.

Twelve people sent emails prior to the approximately seven-minute hearing, but the supervisors received no written comments during it. Mrs. Kozanecki summarized the emails, providing the writers’ names, positions on the budget plan and, when apparent, their affiliations and the magisterial districts in which they live.

Citizens may livestream Thursday’s budget work session at this link.

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

Revised Fauquier County 202... by Fauquier Now on Scribd



Revised Draft Fauquier CIP ... by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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