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Major spending slices, fee increases balance budget

For the first time in recent memory, Halifax County Board of Supervisors is starting its budget process with a balanced 2013-14 budget proposal.

The full board got its first glimpse at the $87,065,427 budget draft Monday afternoon in Halifax during a work session presentation by County Administrator Jim Halasz and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson. 

The proposal, $510,886 less than the current year’s budget, calls for no tax increases and includes no salary hikes for county employees.

Unlike in previous years, staff did not dip into the unassigned or undesignated $4.7 million fund surplus to balance the proposed budget that includes $250,000 in new money from meals tax and $550,000 from the newly implemented solid waste disposal fee.

“If we have less, we will spend less,” the county administrator said.

The draft budget reflects a 1 percent decrease from the current year and was balanced by staff recommending increases in numerous county fees and making cuts to most departmental requests.

Had all the requests for additional funding been left in the budget, Halasz said the shortfall would require a 14.5 cents increase in the real estate tax rate raising the current 45-cent tax to 59.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“Needless to say the vast majority of these requests have not been included in the budget, and Halifax taxpayers have been spared the pain of a steep tax increase,” the county administrator said.

In drafting the 2014 proposed budget, Halasz said the guiding principle used was to preserve the core government and taxpayer-funded services of public safety and public education, while keeping increased costs to taxpayers to a minimum.

Along those lines, staff recommended increasing funding to the sheriff’s office to buy $40,000 in car cameras for 10 vehicles and $90,000 to purchase new 911 equipment to replace an outdated phone system.

“In an era of severe budget strains, public services that taxpayers are obligated to support must take priority over non-public, non-taxpayer supported services,” he added.

In the proposed balanced budget, most county departments’ operational budgets remain level with or less than the current year’s funding.

Health insurance costs are anticipated to increase by $170,000 and are included in the staff recommended budget, but no across the board pay hikes are included for the coming year.

 

 

In order to balance the budget that originally had a $5.2 million gap, staff recommended the following increases in fees:

Motor vehicle license fee increases will raise estimated new revenue of $437,000

Motorcycle: Current rate of $5, proposed increase to $28.75

Motor vehicle: Current rate of $25, proposed increase to $40.75

National Guard: Current rate of $23, proposed increase to $40.75

Farm vehicle: Current rate of $23, proposed increase to $40.75

RV/motor home: Current rate of $25, proposed increase to $40.75

 Animal license fee increases will raise estimated new revenue of $30,850

Dog tag: Current rate of $5, proposed increase to $10

Kennel tag: Current rate of $40, proposed increase to $50

 Animal shelter fees increases will raise estimated revenue of $1,500

Daily boarding: Current rate of $5, proposed increase to $10

Redemption: Current rate of $15, proposed increase to $20

Livestock hauling fee/head: Current rate of $25, proposed increase to $50

Livestock daily/head boarding: Current rate of $15, proposed increase to $25

Livestock redemption/head: Current rate of $25, proposed increase to $35

Adoption fee: Current rate of $35, proposed increase to $45

No shots (vaccinations): Current rate of $15, proposed increase to $25

 Business license fee increases to raise estimated new revenue of $167,500

Amusement - $100 to $200

Business service - $30 to $50

Coin operated machines - $20 to $100

Contractor - $30 to $50

Fortune teller - $500 to $1,000

Itinerant merchant - $100 to $500

Miscellaneous - $30 to $50

Peddler - $50 to $500

Real estate agent - $30 to $50

Repair service - $30 - $50

Retail - $30 to $50

Wholesale - $30 to $50

 

In order to balance the budget that originally had a $5.2 million deficit, staff recommended making the following cuts:

 Requiring The Prizery to repay a $60,000 loan due in September for which they had requested forgiveness

 Removing all discretionary funding arrangements and dues for supervisors including the Institute of Government, Roanoke River Rails to Trails, Halifax County Chamber of Commerce and Virginia’s Retreat

 Removed a request to fund the $13,000 cost of personal property tax returns

 Removed reimbursement of insurance premiums for volunteer fire departments and reduced their request for two sets of personal protective equipment to one set for each department

 Removed reimbursement of insurance premiums for ambulance and rescue services and did not reinstate $6,000 for Halifax County Rescue Squad or an additional $3,000 for Halifax EMS and Turbeville EMS

 Decreased $50,000 from building and grounds due to removal of courthouse repairs and maintenance expense because of the ongoing courthouse renovation project that is now a separate line item in the budget

 Declined request to increase $142,065 in funding for Community Services Board

 Declined request to increase library funding by $192,000

 Declined request to increase community contributions to Halifax County/South Boston Museum by $14,000

 Declined request to increase Prizery annual funding by $75,000

 Reduced Halifax County Industrial Development Authority operational expenses by $100,000

 Declined to fund the Longwood Small Business Center

 Reduced funding for tourism to $106,120

 Declined funding the Old Dominion RC&D program

 Funded three new vehicles for the sheriff’s office instead of the five requested

 Declined to increase YMCA funding by $16,000 as requested

 Removed 5 percent pay increase for E911 staff

 Declined filling litter control director position for the improvement council