Tough Decisions

High-ticket items challenge budget
Construction workers use a concrete boom truck at the site of Warren County's future middle school off Happy Creek Road in Front Royal on Monday. Even though the new middle school’s completion is more than a year away, the county has tried to set aside the money needed to staff and operate the facility. Rich Cooley/Daily
A bulldozer performs site work along the Leach Run Parkway project. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders again face tough decisions when they put together the next fiscal budget.

The Board of Supervisors scheduled a work session for most of today to hear funding requests from county departments for fiscal 2017. County Administrator Douglas Stanley said revenue projections, from sources such as real estate and personal property tax, for the next budget cycle are not yet available. The board is still in the early stages of its budget-drafting session and has heard from outside agencies.

“Obviously when we get to the point where we get revenue projections we’ll, in theory, go back and make some further adjustments to the requests,” Stanley said.

Supervisors also haven’t heard the School Board’s budget request yet, Stanley added.

But supervisors and county officials know of some potential big-ticket items that likely will affect the budget, regardless of how much revenue is expected.

The Board of Supervisors must find approximately $237,000 in revenue collected from the U.S. 340-522 Corridor the county needs to pay Front Royal per an agreement reached with the town last year. The deal calls for the county to pay the town the equivalent of 30 percent of the meals tax and 5 percent of the lodging tax revenue collected from corridor businesses.

The county’s share of the cost to operate the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail continues to increase. The board budgeted $2.25 million in fiscal 2015 but ended up spending $2.76 million that period. The estimated local share of $4.56 million for this fiscal year exceeds the budgeted amount of $3.5 million by more than $1 million. The fiscal 2017 budget includes $4.25 million.

Even though the new middle school’s completion is more than a year away, the county has tried to set aside the money needed to staff and operate the facility. The county set aside about $202,000 in the current budget. That amount would have been about $404,000 had the board adopted a larger increase in the real estate tax rate. The early version of the proposed budget includes $404,556 toward the school operating costs. If approved, the county would have approximately $606,000 to put toward the first year of operating costs. Meanwhile, the county has to cover its share of the cost to build Leach Run Parkway – a major connector route and main access road to the middle school.

County officials also anticipate a 15 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for employees. The county also might grant a 2.5-percent step increase for employee salaries effective July 1.

Several departments requested funding to cover new full-time and part-time positions. Under Stanley’s proposed budget, several requests would be filled but phased in beginning January 2017. Full-time positions fully funded under his proposal include a maintenance worker for the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District at $38,665 and a clerk in the Warren County Circuit Court at $39,589. Stanley’s proposal also includes funding to increase several positions from part time to full time and to create two new part-time positions.

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

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