Board hears proposed budget cuts

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders took another stab at cutting next year’s spending to balance the budget without a significant tax increase.

The Board of Supervisors held a last-minute work session Tuesday afternoon, hours before a meeting to consider adopting the fiscal 2017 budget that would include increases in the tax rates on real estate and personal property. Supervisor Cindy Bailey asked for the work session during which she presented a list of suggested cuts in additional spending in the proposed budget. Bailey’s suggested cuts included reducing the amount allocated for overtime pay for the Sheriff’s Office and pulling back on additional funding for the Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging.

Toward the end of the discussion, Bailey suggested that the county use money from savings rather than increase the tax rate to cover the local share of the cost to run the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail. Supervisor Marsha Shruntz said she backed Bailey’s suggestions. Other supervisors did not voice support.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker said he had sent members an email asking that each supervisor come up with a way to cut $50,000 from next year’s budget. Chairman Helsley and Supervisors Steve Baker and John R. “Dick” Neese said they did not have suggestions for cuts.

Baker and Helsley commented that they didn’t feel the board could cut the budget back much more than in previous sessions. Baker also expressed concern that the budget would not include funding for additional paid responders at the Conicville Volunteer Fire Department.

The board also had reduced the tax rate under consideration from 64 cents to 61.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The county needs to adjust the rate from 57 cents to at least 60 cents per $100 to make up for a loss in revenue as a result of lower real estate values in the latest property reassessment. Bailey and Shruntz reiterated their opposition to any increase in the real estate tax rate over 57 cents.

Walker said he was trying, through cuts, to bring the real estate tax rate needed to balance the budget down to 60 cents. Walker’s suggestions still left a deficit of about $330,000 at the 60-cent rate. The supervisor said he would know better how to bring down the deficit after his first year on the board.

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