Shenandoah County board makes small cuts to budget

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County leaders took their first stab at closing a hole in next year’s budget Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors discussed at a work session how to reduce a projected $3.7 million revenue shortfall in fiscal 2016. The board focused on $2.3 million proposed for one-time, capital projects such as new vehicles, building repairs and equipment replacement. The money would come from the county’s unassigned fund balance or savings.

After more an hour of discussion and debate over which projects to cut and other budget matters, the board reached a consensus to remove $15,000 from the proposed budget for repairs to the County Farm outbuildings.

The board also suggested that, rather than use $100,764 from the county’s general fund to pay for two new vehicles for the sheriff’s office, the agency use the same amount in asset forfeiture money to cover the cost. Sheriff Timothy Carter is proposing to use $201,528 from the same source, which the agency receives through its work with federal authorities, to buy four vehicles. Board Chairman David Ferguson suggested that approach, but he noted that the sheriff would need to sign off on the proposed funding option.

Supervisors also discussed the School Board’s request for $797,788 from the county’s savings to pay for items identified as “urgent” capital needs by the division. Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese suggested that the board give the school division the $411,000 that went unspent from the last fiscal period rather than the $797,788 as requested. Neese said he felt the school division should repay the county the amount given to the schools to replace a boiler.

Supervisor Cindy Bailey said the board should limit funding to the school division for capital projects to $450,000. The School Board should be required to only spend the money on capital improvement projects, Bailey said. The supervisor noted that in a previous year, the School Board chose to spend money meant for projects on salary increases.

The board also discussed at length whether or not the county should provide $20,000 as requested by the county library system to replace a vehicle. Supervisors ultimately left in that request along with others in the list of projects.

Also at the meeting, supervisors briefly discussed funding requests by outside agencies and nonprofit groups. Ferguson suggested that the board include $5,000 to the Shenandoah County Free Dental Clinic and $2,000 to A Small Hand — both of which serve to help underprivileged people. Ferguson also suggested that the board increase the county’s share of funding for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water District from $11,000 as budgeted to $13,000. Ferguson and other members noted the district provides valuable services to the county for little money.

County Administrator Mary Beth Price presented information to the board last month showing revenue estimates in fiscal 2016 of $60.7 million falls short of the $64.42 million in spending included in her proposed budget. The county would need to increase the real estate tax rate by 8 cents to 65 cents per $100 of assessed value, or 14 percent, to generate the $3.7 million to close the gap. Price has made no recommendation on tax rates.

Supervisors plan to hold another work session on the proposed budget to discuss operational spending and to consider a tax rate the county would advertise for a public hearing.

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