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Frederick County windfall may mean worker bonuses

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

More revenue for Frederick County could mean bonuses for government and school staff.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed amendment to the current fiscal budget to appropriate an additional $3.9 million in revenue collected the last financial period.

At a work session on the subject last week, supervisors discussed how best to spend the money not included when the board crafted the government's budget this past spring.

The county collected $130.3 million in revenue in fiscal 2012, approximately $8.2 million more than the $122 million budgeted, according to Finance Director Cheryl Shiffler.

Personal property tax revenue comprised $3.2 million of the $8.2 million, while the remainder comes from levies on sales, meals, real estate, business licenses and public utilities, Shiffler explained. The fact the county saw an increase in revenue over the budgeted amount came as no surprise as Shiffler and other officials watched the numbers.

Staff requested that the board appropriate $3.9 million of the $13.2 million fiscal 2012 surplus to fund priorities in the current spending plan. Per the county's funding formula, approximately $2.22 million, or 57 percent, of the total would go to the school system and the remaining $1.68 million, or 43 percent, to the general fund.

Supervisors at the work session expressed an interest in giving county staff a salary increase. Employees last received salary increases in 2008.

Priorities identified by staff include salary enhancements and one-time bonuses as well as capital replacements, restoration of the county's career development program, additional funds for public safety positions and revenue sharing.

A one-time, 3 percent salary supplement for government employees would cost $820,000. Covering a shortfall in the contribution to the Virginia Retirement System would cost $136,842. After covering the supplement and VRS shortfall, the county would have approximately $720,000. However, the county also listed an additional $1.83 million in immediate needs for the career development program, public safety positions, vehicles, a phone system and parks and recreation capital improvements.

Shiffler explained that she and other county officials have not yet fully examined how best to spend the $720,000. But the items have been on the county's wishlist for three to four years but have been put on hold as the government dealt with the poor economy.

For example, the county discontinued its vehicle-replacement policy and, as a result, has some vehicles with more than 160,000 miles, Shiffler noted.

"So we have to do something, sometime," Shiffler said.

Information provided at the work session showed that a one-time supplement of 3 percent for school system staff would cost $2.4 million. The supervisors finance committee endorsed a request by the school board to carry forward $1.1 million in unspent money from its operating fund.

Supervisors dipped into the county's reserve funds to balance the fiscal 2012 budget but made the promise to replenish the $4.3 million. Part of the surplus would go to repay the amount used from the fund.

Like all localities this fiscal year, Frederick County had to appropriate salary increases to employees to offset a state-mandated raise in workers' contribution to the Virginia Retirement System. Localities had the choice to implement the increase from 1 percent to the maximum of 5 percent. Frederick County supervisors opted to fund the full 5-percent increase but also had to appropriate money to cover an additional 1 percent for taxes associated with the raises.

The budget surplus is not connected to the 4-cent increase in the real estate tax rate currently effective for the 2012 calendar year. Supervisors in May approved the increase, which was the first time in years the board backed a real estate tax rate designed to give the county more revenue than the neutral amount.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com.

1 Comment

Horay for the real workers. The School Staff and other workers are the backbone of it all. I've heard that the workers contribution to the virginia retirement system change is somewhat of a joke. The higher ups need to make ammends.

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