PALMYRA — Fluvanna county administrator Steve Nichols presented his budget to the Board of Supervisors, signaling the start of the budget discussion period.
The budget cycle starts in November but the true discussion amongst the supervisors starts in February with the county administrator presenting a budget. This budget can help shape the conversation.
This budget could fall flat and the supervisors start drafting individual budgets to lead the conversation, as in recent years.
“I think [the budget presentation] was a nice, comfortable, clean process for a starting point. The real work now begins. At least they have a starting point and they were receptive to it,” said Nichols.
Nichols presented a budget that includes a slight tax decrease for real property owners in the county.
Fiscal year 2013′s real property (also known as simply the real estate tax) was $0.5981 per $100 assessed. Because of the reassessment period, that rate is now equalized to $0.81 per $100 assessed.
Nichols’ budget has a real property rate of $0.79 per $100 assessed and keeping the personal property tax rate at $4.15 per $100 assessed.
The budget presented Wednesday decreases revenues by $2.6 million. The majority of that ‘revenue’ lost is using $2.8 million less funds from the county savings, known as the ‘fund balance.’
There would however be a slight increase in property tax revenue, because of things like public utilities now being taxed at a higher rate. The public utilities are not subject to the county’s reassessment period. They are reassessed every year by the state and then just taxed at the local rate.
The yearly assessment does not change much but the county will now tax that property at an additional $0.20 per $100 assessed.
The expenditures of the county have also decreased in Nichols’ budget. Savings in this budget include $571,000 less in debt service, mainly because of the bond refinancing.
The Nichols Budget also has schools getting $13.2 million. Last year the schools were budgeted for $12.5 million but received $13.5 million after additional stopgap appropriations were made over the course of the year.
The largest savings of expenditures Nichols has is less capital projects. The county has completed costly projects like narrowbanding and have set aside money for replacement of the emergency services radio equipment, a project that had been waiting years to be completed. That project alone was budgeted for $4 million in FY13′s capital improvements plan. (See editor’s note below)
Nichols’ budget also contains changes to the staff health plan and salary adjustments for staff including cost of living increases.
“It is time. We need to take care of our staff. They haven’t been well enough take care of. It’s not that everybody deserves 50 percent pay raises, I don’t mean that at all. We just need to have an iterative process that runs over multiple years and this year is the time to start that,” said Nichols.
The capital improvements plan includes funding for an amphitheater, public safety projects like replacement of phone equipment at the 911 center and water projects including the first state of a water system in the Zion Crossroad area. School projects in the CIP are a new electronic financial system to be inline with the county financial system, renovations at Carysbrook Elementary School and money for school busses.
Now the supervisors get their crack at the budget in earnest. Feb. 13 is a scheduled work session for revenue and expenditures plus hearing agency presentations. Nichols thinks he at least has given them something that can easily be implemented.
“I much prefer giving them something that is doable. If they want to go up from that or down from that, it is certainly their choice. But I wanted to give them something that is doable,” said Nichols.
The Feb. 13 work session is slated to start at 7 p.m. in the Circuit Courtroom.
Editor’s note: The paragraph describing last year’s CIP budget was unclear, incorrectly implying infrastructure improvements (radio equipment) in relation to narrowbanding was completed. The infrastructure portion of the project has money already set aside but the project itself is not complete. We regret the confusion.