News that the projected gap between the superintendent’s budget request and anticipated county funding has fallen to just $4.8 million caused celebration—and cautious optimism—at a meeting of the Joint School Board–Board of Supervisors Committee tonight.
County budget staff members cautioned that an actual number will not be available for some time, and school Superintendent Eric Williams reminded supervisors that the School Board has not yet made its changes to his proposed budget.
Still, the comparatively small budget gap is rare good news for the county since the beginning of the recession, and the lowest gap in recent years. The gap has recently been as much as $35 million.
County Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) sounded a note of caution.
“It puts us in a good place, but I also want to set our expectations a little bit,” Buona said. He said because of budget constrictions, the county government’s staffing has not always kept up with county population growth. County departments have been briefing the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee on staffing and level of service shortfalls, and some of that relatively flush budget picture may go to catching up on neglected government positions.
The county’s budget picture will be clearer Friday, when Commissioner of Revenue Robert S. Wertz Jr. has said he plans to finalize tax assessments. The county administrator’s proposed operating budget will be presented Feb. 15.