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Warren board OKs budget, no tax hikes

By Alex Bridges

Warren County property owners ican expect to see no increase in their tax bills for another year.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 to adopt the fiscal 2014 budget and to set tax rates for real estate, personal property and other levies.

The financial plan calls for the county to spend $90.77 million in fiscal 2014. The amount includes funding and spending for county departments and the school system, excluding the cafeteria fund of more than $2.4 million. It also includes funding for a 2 percent salary increase for school employees that takes effect July 1, and a 2.5 percent step increase in salaries for county staff that takes effect Jan. 1.

The budget as adopted assumes the county would increase certain fees and taxes that come up for the public hearings. It also includes the budgets and fees charged to residents of the county's eight sanitary districts. The only change to the sanitary districts affects homeowners in South River Estates. The board approved increasing the fees homeowners pay the county from $100 to $300 per lot plus 5 cents per $100 of the assessed value. The property owners group asked the board to increase the fees so the county could raise enough revenue to cover the cost of road improvements.

Supervisor Tony Carter cast the dissenting vote against adopting the budget.

"We started off with a deficit and I think staff did a great job of working it out with no increases in real estate taxes although there were some relatively minor increases in some of the fees," Carter said Wednesday. "The primary reason that I decided not to support this was because that I felt we could have shifted some money ... within the budget and still kept just about everything."

Carter suggested the budget, with some changes, contained enough revenue to set another $200,000 aside to help pay for the county's share of the cost associated with running the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail when it opens in July 2014. The county has been setting aside funds in the budget in anticipation of the local cost to run the jail and help cover the debt. Carter said the county faces having to pay approximately $1.3 million in 2014 toward the total debt of the jail project. The county, expected to pay more for operations and on the debt than the other users, has approximately $350,000 set aside so far.

"I just thought if we can add a little bit each year it's not going to be as painful to come up with it all at once," Carter said.

The supervisor said another $60,000 in the budget would have allowed the county to fund two paid firefighters that the Department of Fire and Rescue could assign to the Linden station, increasing the coverage there to 24 -hours a day and seven days a week, beginning in January.

"I just felt we could have done that and I don't think it would have hurt any of the departments that we have and it would have been a good thing to do," Carter said.

Carter said he spoke to other supervisors about his suggestions but added that he understood their reluctance to support the ideas because they came late in the budget process.

"I did check with the budgets [funding] may have came out of and I was assured that if we did it that way it might be a little bit tighter but they would still be able to accomplish what they wanted to in the upcoming budget year," Carter said.

Earlier in the meeting while approving the consent agenda, the supervisors instructed county staff to advertise public hearings for proposed increases taxes collected on business professional and occupational licenses, certain vehicles and dogs. The hearings will take place May 21.

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


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