- Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 22:30
- Published on Tuesday, 17 April 2012 22:30
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As this edition of The Journal goes to press, state lawmakers are gathering in Richmond for a vote on the latest budget compromise. Despite the Westmoreland County School Board’s official adoption of a 2012-2013 budget, county government efforts to formulate a budget were severely hampered by the locality’s inability to accurately project state levels of support. In the event of state revenue shortfalls, localities would be expected to raise additional revenues in order to support unfunded mandates.
The question of a budget work session schedule was addressed when the Westmoreland Supervisors met on April 9. Board Chairman Darryl Fisher addressed considerations that made it impossible for local budget efforts to proceed.
“There are some who want us to rush in and put something together,” Fisher commented.
“That’s difficult when all we have are fluid figures. That kind of haste is how you wind up with fictitious fund
balances. When the state hands us its numbers, we will go forward with numbers of our own. By the time everything works its way down to the local level, there’s no place left for us to pass the buck. We have to either fish or cut bait.”
Fisher spoke with optimism about the economic well being of Westmoreland County.
“When you look at fiscal conditions elsewhere on the Northern Neck, I think you can see we are on the right path,” the Chairman stated. “We in Westmoreland County won’t be sitting here a few months from now scratching our heads and wondering where the revenue is going to come from.
“When the state and federal government let us know what’s going to be in our hand, we will see how much we can stretch our money. Trying to put the pieces together is an ongoing effort between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. When we get those figures, we’ll try to hammer out who’s going to get what.”
In order to fund the Westmoreland School Board’s adopted budget proposal, the local contribution would jump from the current $8,112,578 to $10,743,809. According to current budget cycle values, a single cent of the jurisdiction’s school district tax generated $200,156.00 and the local contribution to the Westmoreland County schools accounted for 61 percent of the adopted county budget’s general fund.
During last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, resident and past District 2 Supervisor Russ Culver addressed a series of upcoming budget considerations.
Culver projected that the judicial center construction project will necessitate “a two to three cent increase in taxes” and “a second payment of $250,000 from the county’s general fund will be necessary to support the loan for the land for a new future high school.
Another $165,000 from the general fund will be needed to support the cost of living raise given to the county and school employees last December. “Also remember,” Culver told the Westmoreland Supervisors, “that in September 2008 the Governor was giving the state and county employees a 2 percent raise but then canceled it out. The Social Services and School boards gave the raises prematurely, effective December 2008 and the county subsequently had to pick that up.
“This year’s budget included another half million dollars, cherry picked out of the general fund accounts to help support the school system. Another half to one million dollars from the county may be necessary this time to support the Virginia Retirement system, depending on what the General Assembly does.”
Returning to school budget considerations, Culver commented, “Last year the School Board Chairman declared that the school division’s fund balance would end up being well under $300,000. At the end of the fiscal year the fund balance was over $1.5 million. I believe the school fund balance has ended up being over a million dollars five of the last six years.
“Remember,” Culver then told the Westmoreland County Supervisors, “most of our local tax base comes from real estate taxes and 21 percent of the homes in the county are valued at less than $50,000 and another 26 percent are valued at less than $100,000.”