Board approves $41.7m county budget
By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Monday night to adopt a 2013-2014 budget totaling $41,785,696, which is balanced by $1,228,262 from the contingency fund.
There may be some rollover funds at the end of the fiscal year June 30 which would eliminate the necessity of using that much from the contingency fund, according to Donna Shough, finance director.
If there are no funds left over, the contingency fund will be $1,304,370 when the new fiscal year begins July 1, Shough said.
The $1.2 million from contingency includes $754,300 toward the board's contribution to the county school system, Shough said.
The approved budget provides level local funding for the school budget. The school board had requested $734,784 in increased local funds, which included about $82,000 for a 2% salary increase for school employees.
The spending plan also includes a 3% salary increase for constitutional officers and their employees, social services department employees, and other county employees. The portion of that increase not reimbursed by the state is about $62,000.
The budget also provides about $320,000 to hire and equip three school resource officers and pay other deputies overtime to equal a fourth officer. Those officers will provide armed security coverage at all elementary schools while school is in session, according to Sheriff Dan Smith. (Patrick County High School already has a full-time SRO.)
The cost of continuing the SRO program next year will fall to about $210,000, Smith said.
The board voted earlier this year to leave tax rates at the current level of 48 cents per $100 assessed value for real estate and $1.71 per $100 for personal property.
Peters Creek District Supervisor Lock Boyce, who made the motion to adopt the budget, said he was unhappy with some school expenditures.
"I think level funding is generous," Boyce said. "The schools can make it on what they have."
Boyce said the board had reviewed the budget page by page. "The problem is there's not a tremendous amount of fat," he said. "We've taken heavy hits from the state and federal governments and expenses are going up."
He said he hopes the supervisors "get more cooperation from the school system and administration" in the future.
Voting in favor of the budget, in addition to Boyce, were Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley, board chairman; Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, vice chairman; and Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden voted against the budget, calling it a "deficit budget that has been created in the last two years."
Expenses are not matched by revenues and taxpayers can't afford higher taxes, Hayden said.
"Basically the government's broke now," Hayden said. "A vote for this budget is a vote for a tax increase so I'll vote no."
Hayden has maintained that using the contingency fund to balance the budget every year will ultimately lead to a tax increase.
Boyce made a motion to schedule a public hearing on his proposal to repeal the current ordinance on the transient occupancy or lodging tax, which dedicates 95% of the revenues to promotion of tourism.
State law allows a locality to contribute 65% of that tax to tourism and keep 35% in the general fund, Boyce said, and that's the new ordinance he would propose.
County officials have projected the lodging tax revenues for the coming year at approximately $250,000.
Harris accused Boyce of "double talk," saying he is pushing a restaurant meals tax to pay for SROs, fire and rescue and other public safety services, but then wants to take funds from tourism--which pays an important part in meals revenues--to put in the general fund.
The next board of supervisors might want to spend the money differently, Harris said.
When the ordinance was first adopted, Boyce said, "nobody had any idea" that Primland Resort would become such a great tourism attraction in the county.
Boyce said he was looking to Primland because he "wants to tax rich people--that's where the money is."
He said both the prepared meals tax (which is expected to be on a referendum on the November ballot) and the transient occupancy tax would be taxing people "who come in the county and don't know if they're being taxed or not."
"We can't keep closing doors," Boyce said. "We either have to make tough cuts or find revenues."
Boyce's motion died for lack of a second.
In other matters at the May 13 meeting:
*During the public comment session, Jennifer Scott of Meadows of Dan said she was opposed to paving Belcher Mountain Road and Mountain View Road.
"I don't understand why every dirt road has to be paved," Scott said. "What's wrong with being totally country?"
After a discussion with David Kiser of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the board approved the list of road construction projects for 2013-2014 and the secondary road six-year plan for Patrick County.
*County Attorney Alan Black announced that the relocation of the Liberty precinct from its current location to the Patrick Henry Volunteer Fire Department has been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Registrar Susan Taylor is working with the State Board of Elections to make the change effective by the November election, Black said.
*The board spent about 90 minutes in executive session with the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and representatives of a manufacturing company who are considering locating in Patrick County.
No action was taken and no announcement was made.
*Following a second executive session, the board voted to "de-obligate" funds allocated from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission to be used for upgrades to the town of Stuart water treatment plant.
The plant is now operating at 40% of its capacity, according to County Administrator Tom Rose.
*The board voted to hire Pearson's Appraisal Service to conduct the next real estate reassessment in 2014-2015. (See related story.)