Budget committee now considering combination of tax increases, cuts after public meeting

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The Board of Supervisors budget committee met again Wednesday morning where it digested comments from the previous night’s public meeting at Lord Botetourt High School.

By the end of the 3-1/2 hour committee meeting, the supervisors had asked the county administration to provide several budget scenarios that included real estate and personal property tax increases, many of the cuts they were already considering and any other possible revenue sources.

The committee will meet Monday afternoon to discuss those and presumably give direction on a final budget proposal that will be advertised for public hearing the following week.

The committee also told Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tony Brads to include about a $900,000 “ask” in local money for the school budget that was going to public hearing Thursday morning.

That $900,000 will allow the school division to abandon the possibility it would have to take drastic measures that included the possibility of closing an elementary school or eliminating $800,000 in funding for middle school and high school athletics.

The school division still is absorbing $1.25 million in cuts that includes putting a new roof on Lord Botetourt High School and eliminating eight teacher support positions, plus pulling funds from its capital reserve fund.

The school budget also includes the nearly $1.8 million increase in funding it must provide to the Virginia Retirement System as required by the state. Covering that cost alone is the equivalent of a 6 cents increase in the county’s current real estate tax rate of 65 cents per $100 valuation.

The supervisors’ committee did make a few budget reinstatements based on Tuesday night’s public meeting and comments they have received since last week, so the committee was still looking at about $600,000 in needed revenue.

The committee agreed to keep a proposed new $15 fee for youth to participate in recreation league sports. At the same time, the committee wants the recreation department to work with community-based youth sports booster clubs to reduce their fees.

The committee also wants to leave some money in the recreation incentive fund for jointly-paid recreation capital projects.

The committee agreed to keep the library bookmobile, to try to reduce cuts to other library programs that were on the chopping block, and to re-evaluate cuts to book and magazine purchases. It also wants to try to preserve the children’s summer reading program.

The committee also wants the county to try to keep the full van program rather than cutting out one of the two vans now in use. That may be done with a combination of county funding and looking for underwriters and use fees.

The committee decided to take the sale of the Eagle Rock Community Center off the table because of how much it is used, but the county may look at the fee structure for using the building.

The committee, with the recognition that most of the items are just a deferral, did not reinstate cuts offered by the Sheriff’s Department—mostly for a few positions that are not currently filled.

Nor did it reinstate cuts to several areas involving recreation improvements, management information system improvements and emergency services.

The committee also agreed to postpone the purchase of a new ambulance for Buchanan and a new animal control vehicle.

Cuts to the Clerk of Court’s office, Treasurer’s office, Commissioner of the Revenue, administration, reducing an increase to the voter registrar’s and election office, operational adjustments for recreation, eliminating hazardous waste collection, suspending the mulch grinding program and cutting things such as expense reimbursement for the Board of Supervisors’ members were all left as part of the balancing act.

The committee did agree to try to fund areas that produce revenue in the community—particularly the Sports Complex because of the impact visitors to the complex have on many county businesses.