Stay in the know! Sign up to get Fauquier County news updates delivered to your inbox.
Advertise on Fauquier Now!
FauquierNow.com
Do you agree with the requirement to wear a mask in all buildings open to the public throughout Virginia? Vote!
HOME OBITUARIES NEWS OPINIONS BUSINESS STYLE CALENDAR CLASSIFIEDS
Free classifieds! Members can also post calendar events, news, opinions and more ... all for free! Register now!
Login · Forgot Your Password?
March 20, 2020

“Zero tax increase” budget, county supervisors pledge

It's a very challenging time. Know that you’re not alone. As a community, we are very good at coming together and we will get through this.
— Supervisors Chairman Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District)
“Virtual Public Hearing”
• Topic: Fauquier County’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rates.

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19.

• Where: Warrenton Community Center, 430 E. Shirley Ave.

• Agency: Board of supervisors

• Format: Citizens could watch online and submit comments by email.

• Length: About seven minutes.

• Email topics: School funding, taxes.


Budget Schedule

• March 26: Supervisors conduct work session and adopt budget, tax rates and fiscal 2021-25 CIP at 4 p.m., Warrenton Community Center.

• July 1: Fiscal 2021 budget begins.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Hyper-sensitive to the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Fauquier’s board of supervisors Thursday night promised that the county’s fiscal 2021 budget will include no tax increase.

“We understand the magnitude and the impact on all of our citizens,” board Chairwoman Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District) said of the virus during Thursday’s “virtual” public hearing on the proposed budget in the Warrenton Community Center at 430 E. Shirley Ave.

After much recent discussion, the supervisors have told County Administrator Paul McCulla and Budget Director Erin Kozanecki to prepare a budget plan “that has zero tax increase,” Ms. McDaniel said.

The chairwoman added: “None of the supervisors wants to do anything that will add to the current burden of our citizens.”

Like the rest of the nation, Fauquier businesses and local government have imposed “social distancing” guidelines that prohibit or sharply limit public access to services.

Some business owners talk of temporary layoffs and worry about how long they can endure virus-related setbacks.

Mr. McCulla on Feb. 28 released a $357.9-million spending plan that called for a 3.6-cent real estate tax rate increase.

It remains unclear how much of that plan, which recommends employee pay raises and new positions, will survive.

With Mr. McCulla’s proposed $1.03 real estate tax rate, the annual bill for the “average” single-family home — valued at $378,000 — would rise to $3,893.

That would equate to a $136 increase, up 3.6 percent. All of the new revenue generated by the proposed tax rate hike — about $3.6 million — would have funded expanded emergency services and the public school system.

Declaring a local state of emergency Monday, Mr. McCulla announced that — consistent with “President Trump’s urging that citizens of the United States avoid gatherings of more than 10 people” — the board of supervisors would conduct a “virtual public hearing” on the proposed budget.

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 FauquierNow 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.

Five commenters oppose any tax increase, five backed full funding of the school board’s budget request and one opposed it. One thanked Fauquier County for its continued support of a Culpeper-based group that provides legal assistance to the needy.

The board closed the public after giving viewers about one minute and 20 seconds to email comments.

Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott District) stressed that citizens still can submit remarks until the board approves a budget.

Texts of all written comments from citizens will be provided to the supervisors and posted on the county’s website, Mrs. Kozanecki said.

The supervisors will conduct a work session and adopt the fiscal 2021 budget, five-year capital improvements plan and tax rates at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at the community center.

“At this point, we are looking at a zero-increase budget,” Ms. McDaniel said. “But, please keep the comments coming, because we need to hear from you.”

The new fiscal year starts July 1.

The supervisors and the school board had scheduled joint budget work session at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

But at 3:11 p.m., Mrs. Kozanecki notified FauquierNow and the Fauquier Times that the joint work session and a budget meeting on emergency services wouldn’t take place.

Mrs. Kozanecki and Mr. McCulla did not respond to emails seeking an explanation for the cancellations.

But in blunt terms during Thursday night’s hearing, Supervisor Chris Granger (Center) said a divided school board scrapped the joint meeting.

“There were two school board members that wanted to meet face-to-face and discuss the challenges that we all face in local government and public schools,” he said. “And I think it was a missed opportunity for all of us.”

Mr. Granger said he hopes the school board within the week will “re-engage” so that both panels might discuss budget issues.

“This isn’t about getting the money they requested,” the Center District supervisor said. “At this point, this is about providing a service into the future that can meet the new economic reality.”

In stinging terms, Mr. Granger directed his strongest criticism at the school system’s top administrators and school board Chairman Duke Bland (Marshall).

“It seems that there are some folks on the fourth floor of the Alice Jane Child Building that don’t seem to understand the economy is on fire,” he said of Superintendent David Jeck’s administrative team.

Mr. Granger added: “I hope Mr. Bland is listening. And I hope in the future he’ll do his due diligence as chairman of the school board and meet face-to-face to discuss the challenges we all have.”

The two boards would have met via video, not face-to-face Thursday afternoon. Technical experts worked Wednesday and Thursday to patch together a system that would have allowed the “virtual” work session.

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

His plan calls 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.

State funding would rise 8.2 percent to $52.2 million.

Mr. McCulla’s original budget plan provided raised total county spending — including schools — by $27.2 million, up 8.2 percent from this year. He originally recommended a $2.8-million increase in county funding for schools.

Construction projects, including $15.7 million for the planned expansion and renovation of Cedar Lee Middle School, account for a large portion of that increase. The balance of the $17.5 million school project would be funded in fiscal 2022.

In principal, the board of supervisors earlier last month agreed to an estimated $58.7-million plan that also would renovate and expand Taylor Middle School in Warrenton.

Mr. McCulla’s plan also included $1.7 million to fund 15 new first responder positions. Those jobs would allow the 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 emergency services department today employs 127 people, with 117 firefighter/medics who run calls. Under Mr. McCulla’s proposal, the department’s budget would total $21.8 million, up $2.27 million or 10.4 percent.

Mr. McCulla’s budget plan added eight new full-time positions and eliminated two vacant ones.

He also included approximately $1 million for a 1.5-percent cost-of-living and 1-percent merit raises for county government employees.

A penny on the real estate tax rate generates about $1.15 million in revenue.

Fauquier’s proposed fiscal 2021-25 capital improvements plan totals $99.5 million, with an additional $189.4 million designated for “future” years. 

In addition to the Cedar Lee Middle School expansion and renovation, other big-ticket CIP projects include $4 million to extend broadband internet service to Fauquier’s rural areas and $1 million to develop the Rappahannock Station Park, which will feature public access to the river at Remington.

Supervisor Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run District) didn’t attend Thursday’s public hearing because he had returned last weekend from an overseas trip.

“As a precautionary measure, I’m trying to stay away from others,” Mr. Gerhardt explained in a text Monday. “Although I have no Covid-19 symptoms and did not knowingly come in contact with others who may have had the virus. I feel it’s the responsible thing to do since I was on a full commercial flight and traveled through busy airports.”

But he participated in the hearing by phone.

Observing social distancing recommendations, the other four supervisors and Mr. McCulla sat at individual tables in the meeting room — separated by at least 6 feet.

“It's a very challenging time,” Ms. McDaniel told the viewing audience after closing the public hearing. “Know that you’re not alone. As a community, we are very good at coming together and we will get through this.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
Member comments
Please, be polite. Avoid name-calling and profanity.
For credibility, sign your real name; stand behind your comments. Readers will give less credence to anonymous posts.
To comment, please log in or register.
Facebook comments
Enter your email address above to begin receiving
news updates from FauquierNow.com via email.
Wednesday, May 27
New Baltimore family steps up to provide foster care for beloved pet of man they didn’t know
Wednesday, May 27
Coronavirus situation and state directives key to resumption of classes in fall, according to David Jeck
Wednesday, May 27
Fauquier has 2 new cases among 907 reported across Virginia, according to health department
More Fauquier news
© Copyright 2011-2018

50 Culpeper Street, Suite 3
Warrenton, Virginia 20187
540.359.6574
Crime Log
Obituaries
Business
Add Your News
The Big Picture
Ellen’s Kitchen
and Garden

Features
Real Estate
For Sale
Employment
Automotive
Announcements
Legal Notices
Post an Ad
Advertise
Terms of Service