County to consider $8.1 million in projects

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County could pursue $8 million in big and small projects next year even as leaders try to plug a hole in the budget.

Finance Director Mandy Belyea presented the capital improvement program to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday as part of its ongoing deliberations for the fiscal 2017 budget. Projects recommended for fiscal 2017 total $8.15 million. A new sheriff’s office headquarters, at an estimated cost of $6 million, covers the bulk of the expense.

County Administrator Mary T. Price presented her proposed fiscal 2017 budget last week that showed a shortfall of about $5.4 million between the recommended expenses ($71.15 million) and projected revenues ($65.76 million). Increased spending in public safety and education, along with recurring costs the county covered in the current budget with savings, make up most of the deficit.

But the board likely cannot make up the deficit by putting off the capital projects, Belyea explained Wednesday.

“The $5 million that we’re short is unrelated to capital needs,” Belyea said. “If the board, this year, did fund any capital needs, that doesn’t impact our operational budget in terms of those dollars.”

The county is anticipating that revenue from a federal asset-sharing program will cover the $6 million for the sheriff’s headquarters, Belyea said. The county should see more precise cost estimates in the near future once the contracted architectural firm completes its analysis for the project.

“That almost is a wash,” Belyea said.

The county also anticipates covering the cost of some capital needs, Belyea said. The county expects to receive a $200,000 grant toward a $250,000 ambulance, she noted.

Other projects recommended in next year’s budget include: $100,000 for the first phase of an upgrade to the county radio system; $5,128 to install handicap door push buttons; $15,000 to repair outbuildings at the County Farm in Maurertown; $1.3 million for new vehicles, computers and other computers.

The county recently received notice from Motorola that its radio system – in the emergency communications center and mountaintop equipment – is nearing the end of its useful life and would need to be replaced.

The government center complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the county has heard concerns from elderly and disabled people about the difficulties of entering the center. Installing push-button, door-opening devices would help alleviate this problem, officials have said.

An additional $732,711 in improvements to sanitary district facilities is covered by separate, enterprise funds.

The proposed budget calls for the county to use savings or unassigned fund balance to pay for projects not already covered by asset sharing and grants, or related to the sanitary district, Belyea said. The $2.74 million from savings would cover the following: $866,191 for general fund capital projects; $1.39 million for schools’ “urgent” capital needs; $5,833 for the Board of Equalization; $122,250 for a one-time employee bonus; and $350,000 reserve for unexpected expenses.

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