Public hearing held on county’s proposed budget

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

No one from the public spoke during the hearing on the proposed $32.7 million budget during the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors’ Thursday, May 12, meeting.

The board is proposing that the tax rates remain the same. The budget also calls for providing funding to the school system, through less than requested.

The proposed budget calls for providing the school system with $206,268 in funding instead of the $342,000 requested. The county’s allocation would consist of $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.

“That’s for them to use as they see fit,” County Administrator Tracy Gee said at the meeting.

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

The board is expected to adopt the county’s budget at its June meeting.

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

The proposed budget pulls over $100,000 from the general fund reserve, and Gee indicated 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 told the board in April.

Each 1-cent increase in real estate tax generates an additional $85,900, Gee said.

Besides the school system’s additional $50,000, the county is budgeting for other upcoming expenses, including purchase of a new phone system, installing a new courthouse septic system, providing a 2 percent raise for its employees to match the raise the state plans for constitutional officers, increased cost for juvenile detention, and an additional $8,000 for the Kenbridge emergency squad’s reorganization efforts.

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

The county also reduced the health insurance renewal costs from a 29 percent increase down to a 15 percent increase through requests for bid from carriers, Gee said.  The renewal rates would increase budget costs by $52,700, but lower bid rates from Optima Health and assistance from consultants at Insurance Services South helped the county reduce that increase to $27,000 and lower dependent premiums, Gee said.