Shenandoah County budget calls for more spending

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders need to cut nearly $10 million or raise taxes to balance the proposed fiscal 2019 budget.

County Administrator Mary T. Price presented her recommended spending plan to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Several people spoke to the board during the public comment period earlier in the meeting with some speakers urging the county to fully fund education while others called on supervisors to hold the line on spending and tax rates.

The proposed budget calls for the county to spend $90.91 million in fiscal 2019. That number would represent a 45.67-percent increase over the current fiscal budget of $62.41 million. Departments presented Price with funding requests totaling $91.67 million. Price’s proposed budget reduces that amount by roughly $760,721.

However, the anticipated revenue from various sources totals $81.03 million, leaving a shortfall of roughly $9.88 million.

Price’s presentation did not include a proposed real estate tax rate the county would need to set to balance the recommended budget.

Price’s proposed budget includes $33.67 million for public schools – a number the administrator did not adjust – that represents a 25.51-percent increase over the $26.83 million in the current spending plan. The proposed budget also calls for 13.81-percent increase in spending on public safety that would include additional employees in the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Fire and Rescue.

The proposed budget includes an additional $18.06 million for the future new headquarters for the Sheriff’s Office and to replace the emergency communications system equipment. The county anticipates using federal money to cover the Sheriff’s Office project and to issue bonds or take on debt to pay for the emergency communications system replacement.

The county can expect to see only slight increases in revenue from state and federal sources, Price noted. The county relies heavily on local tax revenue from real estate and personal property.

The proposed budget also calls for the county to use $2.24 million from its unassigned fund balance or savings to cover the cost of some capital improvement projects.

A penny on the real estate tax rate of 60 cents per $100 of assessed value generates roughly $440,765. The owner of real estate valued at $200,000 pays $1,200 in taxes for the year. The owner of the same real estate would pay $1,220 in taxes for the year, or $1.67 more per month, if the county increased the rate to 61 cents per $100 of assessed value. The tax bill would increase to $1,240, or $3.33 per month, if the county raised the levy to 62 cents.