Supervisor pushes early curbs on next budget

WOODSTOCK – A routine vote by Shenandoah County supervisors turned into lengthy debate Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors adopted its meeting schedule for work on the fiscal 2018 budget but not until after two members tried to send a message to county employees – don’t plan for extra spending next year.

Chairman Conrad Helsley asked County Administrator Mary T. Price to provide the board at its December meeting with how much the locality can expect to receive this fiscal year in tax revenue.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey then suggested that Helsley should tell all departments by way of a memorandum that the county intends to keep funding at this year’s levels for fiscal 2018. Department leaders should come to the board’s Feb. 2 budget meeting prepared to present proposals for spending cuts or reallocations, Bailey said. The board then can hear about critical funding increases needed, she added. The supervisor said she feels this approach would eliminate the need for many of the meetings and save employees time.

District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz said she agreed with Bailey.

Helsley questioned the intent of Bailey’s suggestion and asked if three supervisors would support keeping the tax rates the same. Bailey said she did not suggest that board members voice support for leaving tax rates as is. Rather, Bailey said she wanted to avoid giving employees more work.

“Why have the employees go through the entire process of increasing their budgets and then turn around and not get that increase and, in fact, we’re looking for reductions,” Bailey said.

Helsley said he agreed with Bailey on her suggestion to keep employees from needing to do unnecessary work. Helsley also warned that the county should expect to see increased expenses. Bailey said she expects to see increased spending for the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

The county also could see increased spending in health care for employees and contributions to the Virginia Retirement System, Helsley added.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker echoed Bailey, adding that department leaders also should provide information on other revenue sources the county could use to cover spending.

Supervisors then voted 4-2 on a motion to adopt the budget calendar with the possible addition of a joint work session with the School Board. Helsley then called for a roll-call vote saying that he wasn’t sure “how that turned out.” Helsley asked Shruntz and Bailey, who didn’t vote in favor of the motion, what changes they wanted to make to the budget calendar. Shruntz said she and Bailey wanted a reduction in the number of work sessions.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass interjected, explaining that the budget calendar is a working document and that once departments present their spending proposals to Price then staff can reduce the number of work sessions on the schedule. Shruntz said she wants to see a proposed budget that reflects a difference from past spending plans. The administration will try to honor that request with a budget that strikes a balance with the spending needed to run departments, Vass said.

Helsley said he didn’t see how that approach would affect the budget calendar – the item before the board for a vote. He called for a roll-call vote but Bailey spoke up again, saying that, in general, she and Shruntz don’t want to be left out of the board’s discussions. Bailey added that she was fine with the budget calendar as a working document that could be amended later.

Supervisors then voted 6-0 on the budget calendar.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or