Lunenburg releases budget proposals

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors is proposing that the tax rates remain the same even as they provide additional funding to the school system — albeit less than requested.

County Administrator Tracy Gee said Lunenburg will provide the school system with $206,268 in funding instead of the $342,000 requested by the school system.

The county is proposing providing the schools with $50,000 in new money and allowing for carryover of $156,268 from the audited fiscal year 2015 in the budget for fiscal year 2017.

The school system is asking for at least $342,000 to provide a 2-percent pay increases. The state will provide funding for Standards of Quality positions, but the local school system wants to provide matching raises for all remaining staff.

Supervisors call this another “unfunded mandate” from the state.

County leaders said they see the same with constitutional officer salary increases because not all staff is covered by state funds in offices such as the treasurer, sheriff and commissioner of the revenue.

Gee outlined the proposals from the board’s finance committee at the Thursday, April 14, board meeting at Central High School. The supervisors’ meeting was held in conjunction with Student Government Education Week, sponsored by the Lunenburg Rotary Club.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the courthouse. The board is expected to adopt the county’s budget at its June meeting.

“Every year is difficult, but this was a particularly difficult year to budget,” Gee said.

Lunenburg officials said the county ties with Accomack County for the lowest real estate tax rate in Virginia at 38 cents per $100 of assessed value, however, Accomack assesses an additional charge per district for fire and medical services.

The proposed budget calls for pulling over $100,000 from the general fund reserve, and Gee indicates that the board should start implementing small, incremental tax increases which would be less burdensome than a substantial increase at one time.

“There is going to come a time we are going to have to raise these taxes,” she said.

Each penny of the real estate tax rate generates an additional $85,900, Gee said.

Besides the school system’s request, the county is looking at some upcoming expenses, including needing to purchase a new phone system, provide a 2-percent raise for its employees to match the raise the state is planning for constitutional officers, increased cost for juvenile detention, and an additional $8,000 for the Kenbridge emergency squad.

The county has reduced its buildings and grounds staff by one position and the cooperative extension office by one position.

“In these tight times there were hard decisions,” Supervisor T. Wayne Hoover said.