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Groups line up to ask for more funds from budget

Halifax County Administrator Jim Halasz and Finance Director Stephanie Jackson are in the process of developing a 2014-15 budget draft, and Monday afternoon they sought guidance from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee during the first meeting in the annual budget process.

Committee Chairman Doug Bowman, ED-6 Supervisor Larry Giordano and ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis, who comprise the finance committee, wasted no time instructing county staff to keep funding level with last year’s budget for all departments and outside agencies.

The trio also instructed the pair to use a revenue neutral real estate tax rate of 45.5 cents when developing the budget draft.

According to Jackson, the county lost $181,000 in real estate revenue after the recent reassessment. In order for the county to collect the same amount of tax on real estate as in the previous year, the current 45 cent rate per $100 assessed value will have to increase to 45.5 cents.

All departments and agencies seeking county funding have submitted their respective budget requests to Jackson, many seeking funding above what they received in the current budget.

w Halifax County Schools led the way requesting over $3 million above what they received in the current year.

According to Jackson, the proposed school budget seeks $16.6 million in local funding compared to the $13.3 million currently budgeted.

“We have always funded substantially above what the Department of Education requires,” Jackson said referring to the $11.2 million state mandated funding. “And that does not include the $5.5 million in debt service the county funds.”

When the $5.5 million is added to the $13.3 million in the current budget, Jackson said it amounts to the county providing $18.8 million in local monies that amounts to 180 percent above the $11.2 million the Virginia Department of Education requires.

Included in the school’s request for the extra $3.3 million are $1.2 million for raises, $660,000 to cover insurance premium increases and $637,000 for anticipated VRS increases.

 The 911 Center is seeking $200,000 above level funding from the current budget to hire several new full-time personnel. Other monies would be used to pay overtime and offer raises to current employees.

Included in the proposed 911 Center budget for 2014-15 is $100,000, one of four installments over the next four years, to be used to purchase a new radio console.

Working within the constraints of a very tight budget, Supervisor Davis suggested the 911 Center restructure its overtime needs.

 Sheriff Fred S. Clark is seeking $185,000 above level funding to purchase new bullet-proof vests ($25,000), tactical team equipment and training ($25,000) and five new vehicles ($135,000).

 The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority is seeking $114,000 over and above what it received in the current budget to pay for a 10 percent local grant match for the $1.4 million in renovations underway at the Green View Center.

According to Jackson, proposed funding for the matching grant has not materialized, so the authority is now turning to the county for the $114,000 needed to match the tobacco commission grant.

 The Comprehensive Services Act is seeking $150,000 additional funding for state-mandated services the county is required to provide for children up to age 22 living in foster care and groups homes.

 Department of Social Services is asking for enough additional funding to provide 2 percent cost of living increases to all employees, but Jackson said she did not have the total amount of additional money that would be required.

 Community Services Board is seeking an additional $75,000 that ultimately may be mandated by the Virginia General Assembly to provide mental health services.

 The Blue Ridge Regional Jail has requested $300,000 over the current budget that will be used to house an anticipated increase in prisoners.

 Health insurance will increase, according to Jackson, who said she is not yet “comfortable with throwing any numbers out there.”

Halasz pointed out no increase in salary is being proposed for county employees, and should health insurance premiums increase dramatically, supervisors may be forced to look at passing the increase on to employees.

“You either pay it out of your pocket or pass it on to employees,” Halasz said outlining the options for paying the anticipated higher premiums.

 The Halifax County Health Department has requested $24,000 above last year’s budget for operational costs.

 Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin is seeking $20,000 in extra county funding to help pay for a new full-time position and part-time help.

 Outside community agencies including The Prizery and YMCA also are seeking additional funding above that budgeted in the current year including $20,000 for programs and operating costs at The Prizery and $2,500 for operational needs at the YMCA.

 The Halifax County Library proposed two budgets with overages including $45,000 above level funding to allow part-time staff to return to their full-time status as well as providing raises for all staff. “That would be in a perfect world,” said Jackson.

In a “not-so-perfect world,” the library is seeking $25,000 in extra funding to provide raises to all employees.

 Emergency Services is seeking $42,000 above level funding for a new diesel quad cab pickup truck.

 The Line of Duty Act insurance line item also reflects a request for a 20 percent increase of up to $15,000 to fund rising insurance costs.

All other requests from departments and agencies came in at level funding, Jackson told members of the finance committee.

Finance committee members suggested having all department heads who wish to present their budgets in person attend a March 17 meeting where a three-minute time limit will be placed on each speaker.

In addition to finance committee members, also attending the Monday afternoon meeting were ED-5 Supervisor Barry Bank and ED-2 Supervisor and Chairman Tom West.

Before adjourning Monday afternoon, the group considered all opportunities for raising additional revenues which are limited to hiking building permit fees, animal licensing kennel fees, solid waste disposal fees, personal property tax rate, machinery and tools tax rate and the real estate tax rate. 

“When it comes to generating new revenues, we are limited,” Jackson concluded.