Counties seek input on tax rates, budgets

Call it a tale a two counties with different and similar needs.

Both Warren and Shenandoah counties plan to hold hearings this week on their proposed tax rates and fiscal 2016 budgets. Both propose to increase overall spending, give raises to some workers and begin paying off the debt on the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

But whereas Shenandoah County had imposed increases in the real estate tax rates to cover more expenses over the past few years, the Board of Supervisors chose this year to hold the line on all levies. The real estate tax rate will remain at 57 cents per $100 of the assessed value. In doing so, supervisors also have limited the School Board in how much it can receive in local funding and left almost $2 million of Superintendent Jeremy Raley’s request unfunded.

Warren County supervisors will consider setting the real estate tax rate at 61 cents per $100 of the assessed value. The current rate is 61 cents, but the recently completed reassessment on real estate showed an increase in total value of 5.68 percent. To offset the increase, the county would need to reduce the rate to 58 cents per $100. However, with several high-dollar needs looming and a desire by the county to give employees salary increases, the Board of Supervisors is considering leaving the rate at 61 cents to generate additional revenue.

Shenandoah County’s total proposed budget of $109.89 million includes $47,306,311 from sources other than local revenue. The total general fund budget of $62.58 million covers local spending costs. The $109.89 million includes $61.11 million for the public school system’s operating costs, $24.98 million of which comes from local revenue.

The proposed, general fund spending plan of $62.58 million represents an increase of $4.81 million over $57.77 million in the current budget, or 8.3 percent. The school operating fund shows an increase in spending from $59.88 million to $61.11 million but a significant decrease in “special budgets,” from $8.48 million to $3.17 million. Special budgets include spending that does not require local contributions, Raley explained. The school system’s operating fund spending will drop from $68.37 million to $64.29 million per the county’s proposed budget.

Warren County leaders will consider a proposed budget of $100.88 million. That amount does not include the amounts the county anticipates spending in its sanitary districts.

Administrators for both counties have proposed salary increases for government workers. In Shenandoah County, the proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent merit pay increase that would take effect Jan. 1. Finance Director Mandy Belyea said Thursday the exact number of employees to receive the increase has not been determined, but the budget includes enough funding to provide the benefit for all workers on the pay plan.

Under Warren County’s proposed budget, effective July 1, part-time and full-time employees hired before July 1, 2012, would receive a 2.5-percent raise. Employees hired before July 1, 2005, would receive a 2.5-percent salary increase effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Both counties also now face the financial burden of paying off the debt on the regional jail as well as covering the local share of the operating costs. Warren County will assume the greater share of the cost among the three users.

Shenandoah County’s share of the jail costs increases to $994,023 in the local budget. The RSW Regional Jail Authority Board hasn’t adopted a fiscal 2016 budget. But Warren County’s share is expected to be about $4.3 million. Warren County’s budget includes $3.5 million for its share of the jail costs, so the county will need to draw funds from savings to cover the remaining amount.

Since Shenandoah County advertised no tax rate increases for the public hearing, the Board of Supervisors can adopt levies at or below, but not above those amounts.

Warren County supervisors have the option to adopt a real estate tax rate below the advertised rate that would limit how much additional revenue the county can expect to receive.

The owner of property in Warren County assessed at $200,000 would see the tax bill increase by $60, from $1,160 to $1,220, under a 61-cent levy. A $300,000 property bill will increase from $1,740 to $1,830.

Warren County plans to holds its public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2016 budget and tax rates at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the government center, 220 N. Commerce Ave. Shenandoah County plans to hold its hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday at W.W. Robinson Elementary School, 1231 Susan Ave., Woodstock.

Shenandoah County supervisors are scheduled to vote on the proposed tax rates April 21 and the budget April 28.

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