Supervisors vote to advertise a tax rate that may or may not end up being the actual tax rate for the county.  They can set the tax rate at or lower than the rate they advertise, but cannot raise it without re-advertising to the public – a usually prohibitive process that would delay the implementation of a budget until June, County Administrator Steve Nichols said.

Only about three citizens stayed for the vote who were not county staff, news reporters, or directly affiliated with the public school system.

Fluvanna County Superintendent Gena Keller began the budget talk by presenting the schools’ budget request.  “We asked for what we needed,” she told supervisors.

Keller requested $16.5 million in local funds, or $1.243 million above local funding from last year: $190,000 to cover a state funding drop, $253,000 for salaries, $313,000 for health insurance, $188,000 for additional staff and professional development, and $300,000 for technology replacement.

Forthcoming state legislation could change the amount of her request, lowering it to $1.12 million or raising it to $1.275 million.

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch pointed out that the current proposed county budget contains a 10 percent cut across the board for county departments and still results in a 3.5-cent tax increase.  He said that schools’ current funding request was the lowest he’d seen in four years and amounted to about four cents on the tax rate.

“What’s the breaking point for that tax rate if you’re going to go four cents a year every year?” he asked.

Disagreeing with the idea that the schools had received that much funding each year, Keller spoke passionately about education in Fluvanna.  “We’re still reeling from the $1.2 million cut in 2012,” she said.  “We’ve closed two schools, we have shut down 26 trailers that were called ‘learning cottages’ that I called ‘hideous trailers,’ we have consolidated schools, we have cut staff, there have been shifts of over 80 positions since I’ve been here… If I brought to our school board what I believe Fluvanna County public schools needed right now and had no sensitivity to what the economy was offering I would have a $4 million to $5 million budget request.  We are going to lag [without those funds] and I’m not sensationalizing that.

“I’ve been extremely sensitive to the economy,” she continued.  “I’ve had to stand before my staff and say, no we can’t ask for those things.  Now has everything that people have asked for been reasonable?  Of course not.  Part of it is because we are dreamers for our children… We have zero contingency, except in our personnel line we have a little bit of wiggle room.  We’ve never been able to have a contingency since I’ve walked in this school system.  Never.  We end the budget sliding into home… And look, [for the last] two years…you’ve had to turn around and give us money.  It’s not because it’s been misspent.  We don’t have it.”

But faced with dozens of departments and agencies doing worthwhile and valuable work, supervisors must strike a delicate balance when setting the tax rate between providing adequate funding and not overburdening stretched taxpayers or further pushing the county into debt.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien stated his belief that if the schools don’t get what they ask for, “the kids are the ones who are losing.”  When Chairperson Mozell Booker questioned the idea that Fluvanna schoolchildren are losing out, O’Brien said, “They lose out when you can’t conduct the class because your computer was taking five minutes to boot up, when the wifi goes down, or when you don’t have a bulb inside of your projector.  [That] is when the kids lose out.”

“You know I’m an advocate for the best education for our kids,” Booker replied.  “But I also know what’s in front of us.  We need infrastructure… I want the schools to have everything that they need.  But God knows I don’t see where we’re going to be able to get it.”

Making it even trickier are three decisions yet to come down from the state legislature, Nichols said – potential raises for social services staff, potential changes in pay for constitutional officers, and potential teacher raises from the state – all of which could cost Fluvanna significant local dollars.  So when setting an advertised tax rate he advised them to give themselves a cushion, since the final rate can always be lowered.

Supervisors bandied about several ideas, including softening the 10 percent county department cut to 5 percent, funding JAUNT with $6,000, fully funding the sheriff’s budget at $31,000, adding $18,000 for social services staff, and giving Region 10 an additional $37,000.

They also considered partially funding the schools’ budget request by supplying the $190,000 lacking in state funds, paying $285,000 toward staff raises, and providing $312,000 for health insurance.  Those ideas showed how supervisors were thinking but were not, of course, binding.  While supervisors appropriate funds they cannot tell the School Board how to spend them.

Supervisors also considered holding onto $200,000 in case state legislation caused them to find it necessary to pay for county staff raises.

These rough ideas translated into a tax rate of 93 cents, so Ullenbruch made a motion to advertise that rate.  O’Brien suggested 93.5 cents to provide a slight additional cushion and Ullenbruch agreed.  The motion passed 4-1 with Supervisor Don Weaver dissenting.

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138