Loudoun supervisors have held their last straw poll, and staff members are preparing what will likely be the fiscal year 2017 budget for a final vote April 5.
With the county growing at its usual breakneck pace but real estate revenues flat, supervisors faced a challenging budget year. Most county departments wanted to expand their offices, but even among requests that county staff recommended for approval or identified as critical needs, most departments didn’t get everything they asked for. So who gets what?
Not counting the $58 million increase in local tax funding for the school system, the board approved just under half of the budget additions requested by county departments—dishing out $4,487,437 in enhancements from $9,331,900 requested. In so doing, it created the equivalent of 40.89 new full-time positions out of 70.87 requested.
The Sheriff’s Office had the biggest request by far, asking for $2.7 million in enhancements, but receiving only $656,837. With that, the sheriff can slightly expand the business licensing enforcement unit and hire a community resource deputy and a juvenile/sex crimes deputy. The sheriff can also hire an administrative assistant; currently only one administrative assistant helps the sheriff, deputy chiefs, strategic planner, internal affairs investigators, and public information office staff. Among other requests, the sheriff did not get funding for more traffic deputies, a school resource officer, and three adult detention center positions.
The Commissioner of Revenue received funding for an internship program, but not for additional personal property tax assessors, prompting the office to drop DMV Select services to allow staff to focus on their normal duties.
The Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services got less than half its request, winning funding for its first-contact providers and help in the adult detention center, but not for its largest request, which would have provided six new staffers to provide in-home help.
And after a long debate, the Department of Library Services got all requested funding—not only for an expanded Sterling Library, but also for staffing to keep it open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
On a percentage basis, the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure saw the biggest growth. With the authorization to hire a senior traffic engineer and a regional programs coordinator, the office’s budget grew half again over last year’s budget to $2,387,999.
The Fund Balance
As a rule, and as good budgeting best practice, the county only uses its end-of-year surplus to pay for one-time expenses, not new staff positions.
Supervisors delayed voting on whether to pay for an employee classification and compensation study until the county gets the fund balance numbers. The study is estimated to cost $200,000 and would help the county update its pay scale.
The board also delayed paying $150,000 to study consolidating the county’s three emergency communications departments within the county into one Office of Emergency Management under the Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Management. This would combine the dispatch and communications functions of the sheriff’s office, the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management, and Animal Services.
Supervisors put $400,000 toward getting work on the comprehensive plan revision started, but held off on paying another $600,000 until general fund balance discussions.
The construction of artificial turf fields needed at four county high schools also will be discussed when the surplus figures are nailed down. The School Board has estimated that a turf field costs about $1.1 million to install.
Supervisors agreed to allocate more local tax funding to help community nonprofits this year.
The Waterford Foundation will receive $150,000 from the county’s restricted transient occupancy tax. Those revenues come from taxes on hotels, motels, campgrounds, and other guest rooms, and part of those revenues are set aside for promoting tourism and travel to Loudoun County.
Supervisors also pitched $50,000 toward a study of Loudoun County nonprofits’ needs, with the promise of a $25,000 partial match from the Claude Moore Foundation. The study is designed to identify needs, gaps, and duplication of services among the county-funded nonprofits and county human services agencies, such as the Health Department, the Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services, and the Juvenile Court Service Unit.
Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who make the motion to support the study, protested substitute wording offered by Supervisors Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). She then abstained from voting.
“I work in this field, I know what this should look like, and I know what is not being captured here, but if I vote against it then somebody will say I voted against money for nonprofits, and I’m not going to do that either,” Randall said. The motion passed 8-0-1.