At the end of a three-hour work session Wednesday, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors declined to adopt a tax rate because supervisors wanted more information on how the county’s school system would be affected by a rate lower than the one advertised for discussion.
In early March, the board agreed to advertise a real estate property tax rate of 80.8 cents per $100 dollars of assessed value.
By law, supervisors cannot adopt a rate higher than that. Some board members were concerned the maximum amount would be too steep an increase for one year. The current rate is 76.6 cents.
“I would think the scenario would be that we would just inch down from the advertised rate until we have four votes,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer.
Supervisors directed budget director Lori Allshouse to calculate how the school system would be affected by rates of 78.8 cents, 79.3 cents, and the 78.3-cent tax rate County Executive Thomas L. Foley suggested in his recommended budget.
Under some of those scenarios, teachers and other school system employees might have to forgo the 2 percent salary increase that would go to all county employees under the advertised rate. Schools also might have to consider possible layoffs.
Foley said he was concerned that Albemarle might have a hard time recruiting and retaining teachers if the county cannot match salaries paid by peer localities.
“If we get to a point where there’s a real consideration of not [funding the salary increase], I would love to sit down with the school staff and talk about any other possible solutions that might not lay off teachers but also figure out a way to catch up on salaries, possibly by using one-time money,” Foley said.
The school system used that approach last year to help bridge a gap caused when the General Assembly shifted the responsibility for funding state pensions to localities.
“When you think about budgets, you think about revenues and expenditures,” Allshouse said. “From that perspective, you must first discuss your tax rate.”
However, supervisors opted to discuss several open questions before committing to a tax rate, and did not have enough information to get four votes on one rate.
Supervisors must adopt a budget and a tax rate by April 15. They will have one more work session on the topic at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the County Office Building.