The proposed budget for Spotsylvania County was unveiled Tuesday night and it already has the Board of Supervisors looking for ways to afford it.
The recommended 2021 fiscal year budget has a total tab of $593,903,418—a 6.8 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Hiking the real estate tax rate would be necessary to cover the county’s expenses in fiscal year 2021.
County Administrator Ed Petrovich calls for a real estate tax rate of 87.97 cents per $100 of assessed value to cover county expenses. The current rate stands at 84.74 cents.
The increase of $38 million in the budget would cover a range of priorities supported by the board, as well as federal- and state-mandated services.
Petrovich told the board that 40 percent of the $156.9 million general fund revenue will go toward the state and federal mandates.
Another big expenditure is the cost to implement a new pay scale for public safety employees. It will add $8 million to the 2021 budget.
Several supervisors noted the cost of funding the new pay plan for public safety, saying they support it, but adding that it comes with a big price tag, which could mean a tax increase.
Barry Jett said such a tax increase “would kill” two-thirds of the Livingston District’s residents, those who struggle to pay bills. Without specifying, he said there are some things in the budget he sees as “pure fat.”
Supervisor David Ross also talked about the impact of higher taxes on the county’s low-income population. He pointed to the schools budget, with an increase of $4 million, and showed a chart during the meeting comparing the county’s spending on schools. It showed Spotsylvania’s per-pupil spending was higher than Stafford County’s, but that figure was disputed later in the meeting.
Supervisor Deborah Frazier said education needs to be funded just like other major needs such as public safety. She added that the county does have many residents who would be impacted by a tax increase, and the county needs to take that into account while also being fiscally responsible.
Some supervisors suggested looking at other taxes as a way to offset the increase.
Gary Skinner, the board chairman, suggested looking at raising the meals and hotels taxes. The county already has reached the maximum rate for the meals tax, staff responded.
Supervisor Chris Yakabouski said the county should do away with the personal property tax. He also suggested a longer-term approach, with the county laying out a plan to help with future budgets.
The recommended budget has a number of big-ticket items, including $95.3 million for capital improvement projects, such as technology improvements; replacement of the Partlow fire station and new fire and rescue equipment; judicial center expansion and renovation; Marshall Center maintenance; and replacement vehicles.
The budget also aims to cover a $1.2 million loss in state funding based on a recalculation of the Local Composite Index, Virginia’s gauge of a locality’s ability to cover education costs.
And there is a “new initiative” focused on filling a range of positions at the cost of $1.2 million. Half—$649,116–will go toward new positions considered priorities in order to handle county services. The jobs range from trash disposal to accounting to a legal assistant for the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The other $600,000 would be dedicated to other new positions, such as a transportation technician and jobs for erosion, building and zoning work.
The county expects to fall short in several revenue areas, including personal property taxes and landline phone taxes.
The board will take up the budget several more times, and a public hearing will be held before supervisors vote on it.