Warren County facing $3.8 million shortfall

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders need to cut spending by at least $3.85 million or raise taxes to balance next year’s budget.

The county can expect to collect less revenue in fiscal 2017 given the projected estimates, the Board of Supervisors learned Tuesday. County Administrator Doug Stanley provided figures for the board at its work session.

“What I’m going to do between now and next Tuesday is bring back some measures to bring this in line and present a final budget,” Stanley said.

The county can expect to collect $67.99 million in revenue in fiscal 2017. However, the county would need at least $71.85 million to cover the funding requests in Stanley’s proposed budget. That amount includes $49.97 million in the proposed department budgets and $21.88 million allocated in the current period for public schools plus an additional $455,610 that could help cover a significant increase in health insurance coverage for system employees. The $3.85 million deficit does not include approximately $1.1 million the county took from savings to help fill a gap in the current budget.

The county charges 59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value on real estate. Each penny on the real estate tax rate generates approximately $404,000. The county would need to increase the tax rate by 9.5 cents to 69 cents to generate the revenue needed to cover the deficit.

The proposed budget includes $404,000 the county plans to set aside to help cover the cost of opening the new middle school and $750,000 to bridge the gap on the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail budget. Supervisors raised the tax rate last year but stopped short of implementing a higher levy recommended to help cover costs associated with running the regional jail.

“We kicked that can to this year and we’ll have to figure out whether we can address it this year or not,” Stanley said.

Estimates show slight increases in revenue from taxes on real estate, personal property and machinery and tools as well as other sources. The county should see decreased revenue from business licenses and local sales tax. While the county can expect to see an increase in revenue from public service corporation taxes, it will collect less from the Dominion power plant. The county will see a drop of $356,061 or 0.59 percent in local money and $57,532 or .08 percent in total revenue from all sources in fiscal 2017.

Supervisors likely won’t give outside agencies any more money than the county allocated in this year’s budget. Agencies such as the Samuels Public Library, House of Hope and others requested increases in what the county provides – almost 32 percent more. Stanley’s recommendations call for no additional funding aside from a 2 percent increase to the library. Stanley said the additional $18,200 could help the library offset an increase in health insurance cost for employees. The library had asked for approximately $204,000 in additional funds.

However, at least three board members voiced a desire to make sure no outside agencies receive additional money. Shenandoah District Supervisor Thomas Sayre and Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter expressed support for giving the library a 2 percent increase in the local funding. But North River District Supervisor Daniel Murray Jr. said other agencies could “desperately use” the 2 percent.

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

An earlier version of this story should have stated that Samuels Library had asked for an additional $204,000.