County supervisors slowed the pace of additions to the proposed $2.5 billion fiscal year 2018 budget during their third budget work session, adding only $140,000 during a three-hour meeting Thursday, Feb.16.
Overall, the board has tentatively approved $2.76 million in expenses above those recommended by County Administrator Tim Hemstreet. Because the county has also found some extra money—mostly from a $23.8 million surplus in the school system’s insurance fund and additional state funding for schools—it has not had to raise the proposed $1.135 tax rate.
The one extra expense approved Thursday—new information technology security programs and their maintenance costs—was priced at $440,000, but supervisors tagged $300,000 of that to be funded from the anticipated FY17 budget surplus, which is expected to come in around $35 to $40 million at the end of the current fiscal year.
No Towns Biz Development Manager
The board narrowly voted down a new position in the Department of Economic Development that would have focused on recruiting and retaining businesses for Loudoun’s seven incorporated towns. The proposal was to split the cost with the towns, with $51,731 from the county and an equal amount divided among the towns.
Middleburg Town Manager Martha Mason Semmes said the position would help the towns gather town-level data.
Supervisors—including Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), who served as Leesburg’s mayor for 14 years—worried the position would merely duplicate work already done by the county and town economic development departments.
“I don’t really have a sense of how this would be something new that would bring new revenues that wouldn’t already come to the towns,” Umsttatd said.
None of the town councils have voted on the idea.
“This particular idea hasn’t gone before the town council, so I can’t say to you that the Leesburg Town Council would be in favor of it or not, because they haven’t even heard of it,” said Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk, who attended the meeting. “I can tell you that the [town’s] economic development department, we have two people, and they are stretched to the limit of what they can do.”
Although he supported the position, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington Jr. (R-Blue Ridge) said he agreed “maybe this is not baked out enough yet.” His district includes five towns.
Dominion, Heritage Turf Fields Stay Put
Supervisors also decided not to use a portion of the extra money in the schools’ insurance fund to pay for artificial turf fields at Briar Woods and Freedom high schools. Those fields are scheduled for construction in fiscal year 2019
Instead, the county will put $4.9 million into the county’s general fund, giving it an additional cushion in its budget. Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said that would insulate the county as “we are entering into a little bit of an uncertain time with the federal budget.”
“We may also find that things are going well, just like they did this year,” Letourneau said. “So, if that is the case, I would be more than happy to entertain a discussion, as part of the year-end fund balance, to allocate the money for turf fields using fiscal year 2018.”
Supervisors previously voted to use part of the surplus money to fund fields at Dominion and Heritage high schools immediately.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) cancelled the board’s Saturday work sessions and said she will try to wrap up budget work Monday night. If not, work will carry over into Wednesday. The board has only a few departmental budgets left to consider: Parks, Recreation and Community Services; Library Services; Health Services; and General Services. The board can approve up to $388,634 in new spending without having to consider an increase above the proposed $1.135 tax rate.
A final vote on the budget is expected April 4.