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Warren County faces $3.4 million shortfall

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - Warren County needs to fill a $3.4 million hole to balance next year's budget.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley advised the Board of Supervisors at a budget work session Tuesday that proposed spending currently exceeds the expected revenue for the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

Stanley has not yet presented a proposed a spending plan or tax rates. Instead, Stanley has provided supervisors with information showing what the county can expect to receive in revenue and the amount of money required to cover the needs of the general government and school system.

"Revenue's up, just not enough to cover expenditures," Stanley said Tuesday afternoon.

The county can expect local funds to increase by 4.77 percent, with an estimated $3 million to come from the construction of the new Dominion power plant. That money already is earmarked to cover expenses related to the construction of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail and a second middle school, Stanley noted.

"We're projecting a significant shortfall in state revenue," Stanley said. "So even though you might be up on one side, you're down on the other."

Information provided by Stanley shows departmental requests come to $45.18 million. This does not include funding requests by the School Board.

The county appropriated $20.6 million in local money to the school system. If the county maintains the current funding level for the next budget cycle, and allocated money for all general government requests, spending would come to $65.78 million. However, Stanley explained that the county expects to collect only $62.37 million in revenue. This disparity leaves county leaders and staff to find a way to balance next year's budget by reducing proposed spending by $3.41 million.

The figures show a loss of $400,000 in sales tax, an increase of $350,000 in personal property tax and no change in real estate tax revenue.

The county can expect to receive approximately 18 percent less from the state and 17 percent less from federal sources.

The prospect of giving raises to school or government workers appears slim.

"Given the fact that we're $3.5 million short, it's unlikely at this point that we would be able to include a pay raise, for either us or the School Board," Stanley said.

Opening the regional jail will have a financial impact on the county beyond what it must spend to cover its share of the costs to run the facility and pay down the debt on the project. The county will lose $1.13 million it currently receives from the state to operate its local jail. Some, but not all, of the sheriff's deputies assigned to the local jail will take jobs at the regional facility, while the rest likely will stay with his department. Sheriff Daniel McEathron proposes to create a court-services division to handle courthouse security, civil process and transport of prisoners brought to the facility from the regional jail.

As Stanley explained, the Sheriff's Office currently receives money from the State Compensation Board to cover the salaries of its corrections officers. The sheriff assigns some of these officers to other law enforcement duties.

While Stanley has deleted some departmental requests for additional workers, other expenses remain in his budget projections. As Stanley explained, the Board of Supervisors will begin next week to discuss ways to cut spending.

"We'll look at revenue and expenses and work toward balancing the budget," Stanley said.

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

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