- Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 19:53
- Published on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 00:53
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The Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting this week to discuss the ways to reduce costs and raise revenue as a result of the impact on local governments of the budget crisis that has slammed the federal and state governments for the past several years.
A public hearing on the county’s 2014 budget will be held on April 11. In addition to reductions in state and federal spending, county tax revenues are down as a result of the slowed economy and the county is also dealing with $887,000 in delinquent taxes. Unemployment in Westmoreland County is up to 8.8 percent.
In the Monday work session to discuss the 2013-2014 county budget, Westmoreland Supervisors were told that as the federal government cuts funds to Virginia, the state is going to pass those cuts down to the localities. “We are in a period of uncertainty with the federal budget cuts,” County Administrator Norm Risavi said.
Risavi has insisted for months that Westmoreland County work to prepare for the budget shortfalls, but challenges remain. “Up to this point, we have identified the economic softening and made adjustments to minimize the impact on our citizens,” Risavi said. “But we have never seen such a long period of economic weakness. These are no longer usual times.”
Despite the budget challenges, Risavi said Westmoreland County has no plans to increase taxes on county residents. “The Board of Supervisors does not believe it would be prudent to raise taxes in these tough economic times,” Risavi said.
At the meeting Monday at the George D. English Memorial Building in Montross, Supervisors reviewed a recommended budget that showed the county receiving $1.2 million less in revenue in fiscal 2014 than in fiscal 2013. There were dramatic reductions in the amount of revenue received from the state and federal governments.
Nationwide almost one fourth of state and local spending is paid for by federal funds, so as the federal government attempts to deal with an annual budget deficit of $1.4 trillion, states and localities are seeing sharply reduced funding.
In Westmoreland County, the proposed school board budget which depends heavily on a mixture of federal, state and county funds, predicts a revenue reduction of more than $1.8 million. As a result of the budget challenges, the school board has notified 35 employees that they may face a reduction in pay or the elimination of their jobs.
Westmoreland County schools have seen their share of state and federal funding reduced each year for the past five years. That is forcing the county to use more and more local revenue to meet the necessities of the various departments and agencies.
The schools have also seen a steady reduction in the funds received based on the annual daily attendance. The school system receives funds based on student enrollment and the number of students attending classes in 2013-2014 is down 22 percent. The county contributes more than $8 million to the school system’s annual budget.
The five biggest sources of local revenue for Westmoreland County are taxes from real estate, personal property, retail sales, communications and utilities. “All of these sources are sensitive to economic conditions,” Risavi said. “So, the slow pace of the recovery is making things very difficult.”