Supervisors approve $101.7 million budget

FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a fiscal 2017 budget of $101.70 million that will raise real estate taxes from 59 ½ cents to 62 cents per $100 of assessed value, a decrease from the 3 ½ cent increase that had been advertised earlier this month.

The 4-1 vote came with some reservations, especially from Supervisor Dan Murray who objected to the initial proposed real estate tax of 63 cents per $100 of assessed value based on a proposed budget of $102.22 million. Supervisor Tom Sayre was the lone dissenting vote.

Setting aside money to pay for the operational costs of a second middle school and added costs for debt service and day-to-day operations at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail were among the major factors driving the budget upward.

Supervisor Tony Carter also cited employee pay increases as a major cost factor, but one that he regarded as inescapable.

“Most of the costs in the departments are employee related, so where’s the fluff?” Carter asked rhetorically.

The raising of the real estate tax rate translates into a bill of $620 on a property valued at $100,000, compared to $595 for this year.

Murray called that increase unacceptable.

“I can’t support it to be honest,” Murray said. “It’s a little too high.”

Carter urged agency and department heads to get to work immediately on budgets that would contain no spending increases for 2018. He also urged his fellow supervisors to think about where they would cut spending next year.

But Carter also argued that the county’s overall tax and spending trajectory has paid for many improvements over the years in areas such as the schools and the public library.

“We were the laughing stock of the valley, the butt of jokes,” Carter said. “Now, we’re the envy of many places.”

Supervisor Linda Glavis supported the initial proposal for a real estate property tax increase to 63 cents per $100 valuation, although she also called for an early effort to identify budget cuts for 2018.

“We looked for fluff,” Glavis said of the 2017 budget deliberations. “I couldn’t find it.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com