Retirement costs, employee raises factor into spending plan
By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County homeowners will be paying an additional 8 cents per $100 of assessed value on their real-estate tax if the Board of Supervisors adopts the fiscal 2013 budget as proposed by County Administrator Doug Walker.
That increase would close the gap between expected revenue and anticipated expenses, Walker said Wednesday evening.
"There are only so many ways that a local government is able to generate revenue," he said. "The single largest source ... is property taxes."
The anticipated general fund budget is about $54 million, a $5.6 million -- or 11 percent -- increase over the current budget.
Walker said his presentation focused only on the general fund budget since state funding levels aren't yet known.
"We don't have any information from the state other than what's been presented in the governor's budget, and it's so in flux," he said.
Walker's budget proposal also would include a 2-percent cost-of-living raise for county workers, who haven't had increases in four years.
Among the factors driving up the budget are an additional $364,507 the county must pay in Virginia Retirement System costs, $691,215 proposed to pay for 13 more fire and rescue employees, and increases in fuel costs and a school transfer.
The increased VRS cost cannot be passed on to employees, Walker said.
"It's required of us by the state," he said.
Increasing the real-estate tax by 8 cents would generate an estimated $3.4 million extra for the county. Currently, county residents are assessed 47 cents per $100 value.
If the tax hike were adopted, the owners of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $80, while those with one assessed at $200,000 would pay $160 more.
The proposed increase is a "starting point" for the supervisors to work with, Walker said.
"There are lots of choices the board has to make on how it generates the revenue," he said. "There's just so few other places to actually generate that kind of revenue."
One big-ticket item not factored into the proposed fiscal 2013 budget is the RSW Regional Jail.
"The regional jail project actually won't be in the operating budget conversation until fiscal 2015," Walker said.
Whether that project will mean another tax increase isn't known.
"It depends on any number of things," Walker said. "If we get a big industrial boom, for example, there's the possibility of new revenue generated by that."
Walker's proposed budget also has some personnel changes, including making Planning and Zoning Director Brandon Davis the head of community development.
The next budget work session is scheduled for noon on Tuesday.