Warren County supervisors hear support, opposition to budget

Charles Gornowich, of the Lake Front Royal Sanitary District, speaks Tuesday in support of Warren County's proposed fiscal 2018 budget and, specifically, the spending plan for his subdivision. Alex Bridges/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders heard from the public Tuesday about next year’s proposed budget and increase in the tax rate.

The proposed fiscal 2018 budget calls for spending $105.62 million – an increase of $3.92 million or 3.85 percent from the current $101.7 million. The county proposed an increase in the tax rate on real estate and mobile homes from 62 cents to 65 cents per $100 of assessments.

Dennis Willingham criticized the board for proposing budgets that call for tax-rate increases. Willingham suggested that no one associated with the creation of the budget receive a pay increase as proposed for other county employees.

School Board member Robert Wells spoke in support of the budget. Lake Front Royal resident Charles Gornowich spoke about the sanitary district budget and how the county has helped the neighborhood since creating the special taxation area.

Larry Dean, of Bentonville, recalled that Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter challenged the board at last year’s hearing to reduce the budget. Instead, the budget calls for increased spending, Dean said.

Shawn Graber, an emergency responder with the North Warren Volunteer Fire Department, asked the board to fully fund the Department of Fire and Rescue Services’ request for two, full-time firefighters. Graber also asked the board to consider including funds in the budget needed to buy new equipment. Mary Anne Briggs, with the Samuels Library, spoke in favor of the budget and asked the board to vote for the tax rate increase.

Linda McDonough spoke in favor of schools, firefighters and law enforcement but criticized the county for going “overboard” on spending for other areas. She voiced opposition to the proposed increases in spending and the tax rates. McDonough also criticized the board and county for failing to maintain the roads in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District.

Laura Sluss spoke in support of funding for fire and rescue needs in the county. Sluss noted that she recently survived a heart attack and received life-saving help from emergency responders.

Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress spoke on behalf of the Property Owners Association of Shenandoah Farms board Chairman Ralph Rinaldi, noting that the organization approves the proposed increase in the rates for the special taxation area.

County Administrator Doug Stanley delivered a presentation on the proposed budget prior to the hearing. The Board of Supervisors is expected to act on the proposed budget and tax rates at its April 18 meeting. Several supervisors spoke in support of county spending before the hearing and asked Stanley to dispel some rumors or correct misinformation about the budget.

A significant portion of the proposed budget increase comes from the change in the real estate tax rate estimated to generate $1.53 million.

Cost drivers in the proposed budget include a 2.5-percent cost-of-living-adjustment for all county staff; operational costs of the second middle school; and an additional $1.3 million for the school system.

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