Supervisors begin combing through FY17 budget

Albemarle County supervisors have begun the process of reviewing the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, but it will be a few of weeks before they set their proposed real estate tax rate.

The final tax rate will depend upon whether they want to add positions or other items that were not included in the $375.2 million budget recommended by County Executive Tom Foley.

“The tax rate could go higher or we could eliminate services,” Foley said at a work session Thursday on the general operating budget.

Foley’s proposal is based on a property tax rate increase, which would bring the rate to 84.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.

As work sessions are held, supervisors can request that items be added to a list of possible additions to the budget.

The general fund budget is $258 million, with 65 percent of that funded through real estate taxes.

Each additional cent on the tax rate would bring in $ million in additional revenues.

Of the increase in Foley’s proposal, 1 cent would go to the capital improvement program, 1.1 cents would go to general government operations and 0.4 cents would go to the school division.

This year’s budget also includes an innovative way to increase participation in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s revenue-sharing program.

Staff members are proposing an increase in the motor vehicle registration fee from $ to $ per vehicle, with the additional amount dedicated to transportation. Localities can apply for up to $10 million from the state as long as they make an equal match.

“This change is anticipated to result in a total of $6.8 million in board-approved transportation improvements over the next several years,” said county budget director Lori Allshouse. The idea came from a suggestion from the Citizens Resource Advisory Committee.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she likes the idea.

“Part of our concern last year for some of us was that we weren’t matching those funds and were leaving money on the table,” McKeel said.

The budget proposal includes a 2 percent salary increase for county employees.

Supervisor Rick Randolph said he wants to see what the budget would look like if the salary increase for local government was delayed until Jan. 1, if it was restricted to non-administrative positions and if it was eliminated altogether.

“I certainly want to see everybody compensated in county government but I do think it would be prudent to see what the finances would look like in those three scenarios,” Randolph said.

In all, county departments had requested 48 new positions but funding was not provided for any of them. The police department asked for four new positions and the community development department requested several planning positions.

“Clearly, within those 48 positions, if somehow they were ranked appropriately, some of these people would be incredibly valuable,” said Supervisor Norman Dill, adding that he might want to see more information on the requested positions.

Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said the departments themselves ranked the positions and that the information would be shared with the board.

One half-time grant-writing position has been included in the proposed budget.

“We think we’ll bring down more revenue than it will cost,” Foley said. “There’s absolutely no question that there are other values these [unfilled] positions could bring.”

Foley said the county already is looking ahead to the following fiscal year and told the board that every new position created would further widen a projected $3 million budget deficit for 2018.

The board will hold a work session Monday on the schools budget and another on March 3 on the capital improvement program budget and the county’s debt.

The board will make its final decision March 8 and advertise a tax rate after that. A public hearing on the board’s budget will be held March 30 and a budget is expected be adopted April 12.