By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County needs to raise tax rates to cover a revenue gap and increased spending needs, officials say.
The Board of Supervisors at a work session Thursday continued to discuss the fiscal 2014 budget as proposed by outgoing County Administrator Douglas Walker. Budget Manager Garland Miller gave a report that illustrated the county's financial standing as it approaches the next fiscal cycle.
Walker's proposal calls for increasing the real estate tax rate by six cents, from 51 to 57 cents per $100 of assessed value. The administrator also recommends the board raise the personal property tax rate by 35 cents, from $3.15 to $3.50 per $100 of assessed value.
The proposed budget includes the hiring of additional staff for the Sheriff's Office and other departments.
Walker reminded supervisors that they must decide at their work session Tuesday what tax rates the county will advertise for the public hearing. The board can approve rates only up to those advertised, but can choose levies below those amounts.
The county receives approximately $450,000 in additional revenue for each one-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. A 6-cent increase equals $2.7 million. An increase of one cent on the personal property tax amounts to $31,000 in extra revenue. A 35-cent increase equals $1.08 million.
But county officials assume the School Board will ask for $1.2 million in additional local revenue - roughly 2.6 cents of a 6-cent real estate tax increase. That would leave the remaining 3.4 cents of the proposed increase to the general government.
Supervisor David Ferguson said it comes down to choosing what to fund and then determining the tax rate needed to achieve those goals.
"I don't think that there's many choices in this budget where you're going to cut," Ferguson said.
Supervisors and officials agreed the issue comes back to personnel and the associated costs.
Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said the county needed to inform the public about the reasons for tax increases and the additional revenue for government operations.
While the county has seen revenue from real estate tax and other sources rise, the rate of increase fell nearly flat.
Miller's report also showed a different perspective on the fiscal situation and proposed tax rate increases. For example, Walker's budget proposal calls for a 2-percent increase in the cost of living allowance for county employees. This increase would cost approximately $257,479 - equal to raising the real estate tax rate by 0.57 cents. The $254,133 needed to hire four more school resource officers equates to increasing the rate by 0.56 cents.
A proposal by the Sheriff's Office to help cover the cost to hire school resource officers through the use of asset forfeiture money would reduce the burden on the county, according to Miller.
The revenue picture looks brighter. Figures show the county should expect to receive an increase in revenue by $571,330 in fiscal 2014. However, as Miller explained, that number doesn't make up the operational budget gap of $644,809. It still leaves a shortfall of $73,479.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org