State takes back some local funding

Virginia needs some money back that it gave local governments this budget cycle.

Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties must reimburse the state approximately $268,000 allocated in the state’s budget to help cover a $30 million revenue shortfall.

The Virginia Department of Planning calculated amounts each local government must repay based on allocations in different categories and notified localities across the state in a Nov. 14 letter.

Shenandoah County officials explained to the Board of Supervisors on Thursday where they plan to implement $84,803 in cuts. Chairman David Ferguson noted that the county has options on how it can cover the loss that include taking money from its contingency fund in the annual budget. This is separate from reserves.

“One option we do not have is tell the state we don’t accept that, we want the money,” Ferguson said. “That ain’t gonna happen.

“If there’s a silver lining in this is this is only $84,000,” Ferguson added. “In the past, it’s been as high as a quarter-million dollars and we probably would be scratching our heads ’cause I don’t think reserves would cover that for this year.”

County Administrator Mary T. Price said the repayment would come out of contingency funds included in the county’s current budget. The board came to a consensus to direct the administrative staff to move necessary funds from the contingency line item into the department budgets.

“This one we did not know about,” Price said, adding that the county must send a check for the amount by Dec. 31.

In Shenandoah County’s case this time, $48,507 must come out of the $1.59 million allocated for comprehensive services for at-risk youth and families. Another $10,454 will come out of the $343,540.89 allocated to local court services through the Virginia Compensation Board. Several other constitutional offices will lose state funding, as will local libraries.

This mandate revives the practice by the state referred to as the “aid to localities” reduction that then Gov. Bob McDonnell suspended for the current fiscal year.

Shenandoah County’s Director of Finance Mandy Bilyea said Friday that the state department came up with the reimbursement figures but did not mandate that local governments take the funds out of the specific line items. Localities must ensure that the total reductions equal the mandated reimbursement, Bilyea said.

“This kind of came out of left field,” Bilyea said.

Warren County Finance Director Carolyn Stimmel said Friday that her department has not presented the Board of Supervisors with its recommendations on where to cut, but must do so by its first meeting in January. In the past, the county has followed the state department’s recommendations.

“We have a reserves-for-contingencies budget, line item in our budget, and if we needed to use that line [item] there’s certainly adequate funds in that line to do that,” Stimmel said.

Shenandoah County’s contingency fund line item has not always covered the entire reimbursement required. But local government officials usually received notices during their budget discussions that the state would need some money back. Local governments had the options in the past of writing a reimbursement check or to take the funding cut because they received early notification.

Shenandoah County repaid the state $231,891 in fiscal 2013 and reduced programs by $278,159 the previous period. Warren County reduced programs by $256,886 in 2013 and $324,891 in 2012. Frederick County reduced programs by $252,850 in 2013 and $293,812 in 2012.

Information from the Virginia department also indicates that the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail will have to pay back $136,197 in state funds. The RSW Jail Authority Board Chairman Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, said members approved sending a reimbursement check to the state. The board has not determined where to make the cuts in the jail budget, but the authority could cover the cost by using funds not yet spent to fill vacant positions.

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