Warren County faces $1.2 million shortfall

FRONT ROYAL – If the Board of Supervisors follows through with its promise to not raise taxes, it will have to find another way to cover a $1.2 million shortfall in the proposed 2018-19 budget.

The supervisors in a Tuesday work session discussed the proposed budget, which totals about $106 million. It does not include costs for a 12-percent health insurance increase, salary increases, or a requested Sheriff’s Office career development program. The schools’ proposed local appropriation is $23,481,164 compared to $23,421,164 last year.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said most county departments followed the board’s request to receive level funding. Then, just as the county approached a balanced budget, he said notification came that about $570,399 of revenue from Dominion Power corporate taxes would be lost. That loss is due to a new Dominion assessment that includes tax breaks for pollution control equipment.

Any projected additional revenue will be used to “basically offset what we lost with Dominion,” Stanley said. “That’s not something we have control over.”

Supervisors Chairman Tony Carter noted that the board has faced larger shortfalls in the past. It may, however, be difficult to cover this year without raising taxes.

Last year, Supervisors Tom Sayre and Archie Fox voted against a 3-cent real estate tax increase from 62 cents to 65 cents per $100 of assessed value. Carter played “devils advocate” at the time, and suggested a handful of cuts that would prevent a tax increase.

Carter said he remained open to drastic budget cuts, but being one out of five supervisors in favor of such measures would make no difference.

“Last year I threw out some things as far as cuts. Nobody took me up on it. So I would strongly recommend if we’re not going to raise taxes, which it looks like were not going to, that board members suggest some cuts where they would like to see less expenditures,” Carter said. “I challenge Mr. Sayre and Mr. Fox to do that.”

Supervisor Linda Glavis said, “get your pencils sharpened, I’ll bet you come up with something.”

Stanley said the shortfall could be covered using money in the fund balance, which he explained to be “essentially the county’s savings account.”

According to the county’s fiscal policy guidelines, the fund balance should contain at least 15 percent of the total operating budget. The county’s projected fund balance is about $13 million, which is be about 12 percent of the total last year’s $105.6 million budget. The general fund should receive a slight bump if the county recoups two loans worth about $1 million.

Carter said the problem using fund balance money to cover the shortfall “is you’re starting off the next budget in the hole.”

The supervisors’ next budget work session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 20.