FRONT ROYAL – On the heels of six consecutive years with tax increases, the Board of Supervisors hopes to stop that trend.
County Administrator Doug Stanley said during a Tuesday budget work session that he has heard the supervisors’ opposition to a tax increase “loud and clear” and he is going to the best he can to present a budget obliging those desires.
Stanley said other budget goals are to maintain the county’s level of services, provide competitive employee salaries and maintain progress on capital improvement projects. He noted that despite the continuous increases, Warren County’s real estate tax rate is the third-lowest compared to seven surrounding counties.
Asked over the phone how difficult it will be to avoid a tax increase, Supervisor Cheryl Cullers said: “that’s a very good question.” She said she has asked Stanley what the county’s potential shortfall is and “I have not been given a number yet.”
“I’m hoping that we get it A.S.A.P.,” she said.
Stanley said over the phone that the county “hasn’t gotten all of the pieces together yet,” noting that the supervisors still have not received the school’s funding request. He noted that most county department budgets have come in flat or with small increases.
Without projected revenues, Stanley said he does not have a projected shortfall.
“I’d say remember that we used about $1.2 million in fund balance for the school budget last year, so that leaves us in a little bit of a hole starting out and that’s something that we’ll have to deal with moving forward with the budget,” he said.
Supervisor Tony Carter said the county is waiting on revenue projections “and we should have a fairly good idea on that” come March 3. Carter said “the ultimate goal is to maintain the current tax rate and still maintain the level of services that the citizens are accustomed to.”
Cullers agreed, saying her goal providing the best services “but hold the line on those taxes if at all possible.”
“I’ve heard the people that they are upset about continual taxation. I think that we need to listen to them and do our best to hold the line and that’s my goal. I’ve heard the people, I respect their thoughts and I want to do the best I can to work for the people,” she said.
Supervisors Chairman Walter Mabe said over the phone that the board is trying "our darndest" to avoid a tax increase, and he does not think it will too difficult to accomplish that goal. He added that the supervisors are getting more involved in the budget process than supervisors of previous years.
He said the main goal right now is to “maintain” the current budget,” which will give the supervisors a full year “to find out where everything is and where money was spent and if we really need it.”
“There’s a lot of ifs right now,” he said.
Mabe reiterated that the supervisors need a “solid budget” to cover the county’s needs this year before moving on to the budget process next year.
"In a nutshell, the goal is not to raise taxes," Mabe said.
Supervisors Delores Oates and Archie Fox could not be reached for comments.