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Board members slogging through budget requests

King George County Administrator Travis Quesenberry will present the Board of Supervisors with more 2013-14 budget options this week at a work session scheduled on Thursday, March 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the board room of the Revercomb Administration building. 

The board began its budget endeavors in earnest last week with work sessions on two days which brought them knee deep into proposed budget matters for the county and the Service Authority, which provides water and sewer service to selected areas.
Quesenberry has not yet presented a recommended budget, but instead is trying to get some guiding consensus from board members, who appear to be pushing him various directions.

Last week, Supervisors reviewed a list of requests for 23 new positions, hearing from department heads. Those positions would add an estimated $1.3 million to the proposed budget, adding to a potential $4.5 million deficit, with the School Board proposed request a big part of that.
Chairman Dale Sisson urged department heads to go back to the drawing board and apply some innovative thinking to the increased demand to provide more services, in addition to looking at simply hiring more employees.

MAINTAINING RESERVES RECOMMENDED
Last week’s meeting began with a caution from Kyle Laux of Davenport & Company, the county’s financial services. Laux warned about the temptation to dig into county reserves.

Some Supervisors appeared to be aware of the dangers of a big budget increase, with the fiscal uncertainty from the continued sluggish economy hanging in the air, coupled with the specter of federal cuts due to sequestration, currently trickling into effect.

Cedell Brooks last week pulled back from his previous request for consideration of doubling the amount of stipends for board members, from the current $5,000 per year to $10,000, which was still being strongly supported by Ruby Brabo.

Joe Grzeika suggested looking at employee health insurance increases differently, saying for the county “to continue to pick up every increase in health insurance is very unusual. It’s something we need to look at.”

While some were attacking a possible deficit which would result in higher taxes, Brabo instead urged loosening rules that would provide tax breaks to additional people.

Brabo wants the threshold raised from an income of $25,000 to $50,000 for eligible elderly and disabled people to provide a break to more than the 35 people in the county currently eligible.

Supervisors seemed amenable to looking at some change if the numbers are provided. Sisson also commented, saying, “The good news part is folks are above that line.”

Up in the air are questions about whether or not to go for a two-percent pay increase across the board for all county employees, which would also extend to school division employees, in an effort to treat all fairly.

SCHOOL BOARD
The School Board’s approved budget request was distributed showing the bottom line of $36,540,244 for an operating budget. Questions were voiced about why the average daily attendance (ADM) number being used is being set by the division at 4,089, which is lower than last year and the current year’s.

The School Board is also asking for funding to cover a two-percent raise across the board for the division and approved a proposed budget request that contained that proposal.

Superintendent Rob Benson and School Board Chairman John Davis are slated to attend the county budget work session this week to talk about the division’s budget request.

Now that the state budget has been decided, funding numbers are in for localities, with the state due to pick up a share of that cost for some teacher salaries, possibly changing the numbers requested from the county, which is more than $2 million more than in the current year from local funding.

Phyllis Cook

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