Shenandoah County faces $5.4 million shortfall

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders need to plug a $5.4 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

County Administrator Mary T. Price presented her proposed budget for fiscal 2017 to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Price’s spending plan of $71.15 million represents an increase of $8.43 million or approximately 13.5 percent over the current period.

The proposed budget assumes the county receives $65.76 million – approximately $5.39 million less than the spending request. The revenue amount includes $48.9 million from local sources in fiscal 2017 – an increase of $610,973 or 1.27 percent. General property taxes are estimated to increase by $578,500, or 1.49 percent – slightly more than the amount the county agreed to spend on the recent property reassessment.

Finance Director Mandy Belyea gave a related presentation on the recent reassessment, noting that land values fell since the last appraisal process. The county would need to increase the real estate tax rate from 57 cents per $100 of assessed value to a revenue-neutral levy 60 cents because using the current rate would result in less revenue for the county.

The budget as proposed would give the School Board roughly half of the additional money they want next fiscal year. Education funding in Price’s proposed budget makes up roughly $29.23 million or $3.24 million more than in the current period.

Price initially received $75.34 million in spending requests for the next fiscal period. That amount represents an increase of $12.62 million over the $62.71 million in the current budget. The requests included increases in funding over the current period for public safety (16.72 percent), education (23.32 percent), community development (15.68 percent) and capital outlay (371.07 percent). Capital outlay covers one-time building needs and the initial request called for $7.06 million, a significant increase over the $1.5 million in the current budget. Price noted that the $6 million estimated cost for a new sheriff’s office skews the total.

Public safety covers fire and rescue, law enforcement, the animal shelter, animal control, building code enforcement, juvenile probation and detention, emergency communication, adult corrections and detention and the contributions to the volunteer fire and rescue organizations.

Price reduced the requests by $4.18 million to $71.15 million. The proposed budget includes increases in funding for public safety (8.33 percent), education (12.48 percent) and community development (14.5 percent). Capital outlay requests remain unchanged. The proposed budget reflects a decrease in spending on general governmental administration by $210,830 or 7.67 percent.

Sheriff Timothy Carter asked for three, full-time officers, a part-time animal control officer, a part-time investigator and a civil process deputy.

Chief Gary Yew, of the Department of Fire and Rescue, requested two full-time responders for the Orkney Springs Volunteer Fire and Rescue station; seven full-time responders for Conicville Volunteer Fire and Rescue; an assistant fire marshal and a training assistant.

Other new personnel requests included a full-time caretaker at the animal shelter; four additional communications officers; an upgrade of the comprehensive services act coordinator to full-time.

Price recommends the board fund the following personnel requests: One civil process deputy ($32,400 of the salary covered by the state) and a full-time narcotics investigator for the Sheriff’s Office to handle the increase in heroin trafficking; two emergency responders at Orkney Springs and three at Conicville; upgrade the comprehensive service act coordinator to full-time.

The proposal also calls for an increase of $2,000 in the contributions the county gives to volunteer fire and rescue companies. This totals $535,000 and represents an increase of $25,000 over the $510,000 in the current budget.

Price is recommending a one-time, performance-based bonus. The increase would take effect Jan. 1, 2017, and would not affect ongoing salary, pay scale or retirement compensation. The proposed budget doesn’t include increases for merit pay or cost of living allowance because the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers showed no increase in Social Security benefits for the calendar year 2016.

The “bright star” in the budget proposal – no increase in health insurance costs, Price said.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority has not developed its fiscal 2017 budget that would determine each of the participating counties’ shares. Shenandoah County’s share of the costs to operate the jail is 32.38 percent for the current fiscal year. The county’s share of the jail debt is slated to increase from $994,023 to $1.08 million based on an estimate of 36 percent.

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