Stafford County’s proposed $618.8 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes new money for education, employee salaries, public safety and social services.
County Administrator Tom Foley, who presented the budget to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon, called the presentation, “Beginning the Journey,” and said it is designed to align with the county’s strategic plan and be proactive rather than reactive in addressing the challenges Stafford faces as the third fastest-growing county in Virginia.
“We are becoming more and more part of northern Virginia,” Foley said Tuesday. “That is not said to create alarm, but to make us aware of the importance of being strategic.”
He said if the county is to continue providing services to a population that grew by 16 percent between 2008 and 2016, it must address staffing and salaries.
Foley’s proposed General Fund budget is $10.1 million higher than this year’s spending plan. It includes $1.6 million for a 2.5 percent increase to county employee salaries, as well as $1.9 million to implement the first year of a two-year plan to bring below-market positions to market level.
Foley said about $850,000 of the $1.9 million comes from savings obtained by rebidding the county’s health insurance plan, which includes the schools.
The budget includes $3.7 million in additional funding for the school division, for a total of $126.5 in local funding. This is significantly less than the $8.7 million in new funding requested by the School Board in the budget it approved last week.
School division teachers and staff have launched a strong campaign asking for a 5 percent across-the-board raise and the School Board’s approved budget would have covered this.
According to his presentation, Foley’s budget, “Maintains enrollment growth funding for schools at $1.75 million and commits $1.18 million in matching funds for the state’s two-year 5 percent raise.”
The funding would cover half of the 5 percent increase for school employees.
Supervisor Jack Cavalier asked Foley how much it would cost to cover the entire 5 percent increase, suggesting that a 2.5-cent increase in the real estate tax rate would generate enough for county and school salary raises. Foley said he would have exact numbers on what this would cost at upcoming budget work sessions, but said Cavalier’s estimate was roughly correct.
The budget includes $977,275 in additional money for Fire and Rescue over the current funding, $352,782 more for the Sheriff’s Office, $186,644 extra for the Commonwealth’s Attorney and a $407,630 increase for social services.
The proposed budget reflects a $4 million increase in real estate revenues but recommends keeping the current real estate tax rate of 99 cents per $100 of assessed value. According to the budget overview, the average assessed home price in the county is $301,300 and the average annual tax bill is $2,907.
The proposed budget also reflects a $1 million increase in sales tax revenue and an $836,000 increase in personal property tax receipts.
The budget calls for establishing a central procurement office for the county and school division to ensure compliance with state purchasing rules.
It provides capital funding for Germanna Community College’s new nursing school and creates a handful of new positions—including three in Fire and Rescue to assist with 24-hour staffing, three in the Sheriff’s Office to assist with recruitment and retention, a long-range planner and a stormwater technician in Planning and Zoning, and several part-time positions in Parks and Recreation.
The budget projects a revenue increase from a higher gas tax and recommends allocating this increase to support transportation projects identified in the county’s Comprehensive Road Study.
The board will hold a joint work session on the budget with the School Board on March 19.