On their first day of work on County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposed $2.6 billion fiscal year 2019 budget, county supervisors carved $333 thousand out of that proposal.
Supervisors have begun the work of going through Hemstreet’s proposal department by department. At their first worksession Monday, they tackled the spending requests for county administration, Public Affairs, the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office, General Services, Human Resources, Information Technology, Management and Budget, and the Treasurer’s Office. In total, those departments and offices account for $122 million in Hemstreet’s proposed budget, up $11 million from the current year’s adopted budget.
Those departments include several new positions, such as new personal property tax compliance specialists and real estate appraisers for the Commissioner of the Revenue, and new public information officers specializing in transportation issues, human services, and emergency management.
Supervisors took more than $333,000 out of that proposal. They did that by taking out one of four requested new public information officers, and two of three new real estate appraisers from the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office.
Of the four new public information officers Hemstreet requested, supervisors were supportive of hiring two who would help the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure with informing Loudouners about transportation projects. Department Director Joe Kroboth said those new positions could mean his employees can spend more of their time managing their construction projects, and let the new hires take the job of communicating to the public
“Our experiences have been that in the delivery of projects, early and frequent interaction with the public is essential to project success,” Kroboth said.
But supervisors were split on the other two public information officer positions. One, according to Coordinator of Emergency Management Kevin Johnson, would help his department educate the public and increase preparedness year-round and before emergencies happen. That new hire would also help the county come back into compliance with the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986, which requires a Local Emergency Planning Committee. Johnson said that committee became defunct after turnover in its membership.
The other, meant to support the county’s human services departments such as the Department of Family Services and the Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services, would develop campaigns to raise awareness of those departments’ programs. A report prepared for the meeting cited issues such as Lyme disease, communicable disease, suicide prevention, family violence, child and elder abuse, opioid addiction and treatment, sex trafficking, and other social concerns.
County Chief of Staff Caleb Weitz said forced to choose, the county staff would likely prioritize the human services public information officer. Removing one public information officer is estimated to save the county $111,132.
Commissioner of the Revenue Robert S. Wertz Jr. said his office can go long stretches without reappraising a property—leaving potential tax revenues on the table as the county is unaware of properties that have grown in value. But he also already has four vacancies for real estate appraisers, and said he has seen several potential hires turn down job offers because of the pay he can offer.
“It seems like adding more vacancies to that list would not really help that much,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
Supervisors recently received a report showing Loudoun’s public employees are paid far less than their colleagues around the Northern Virginia region, and the county government has launched an ongoing effort to devise new pay scales and job descriptions and bring employee pay in line with the rest of the region.
Cutting two of those new appraisers is estimated to save $222,264.
Supervisors’ votes so far are unofficial straw polls. They are scheduled to take an official vote April 3. More work sessions are scheduled for Thursday, March 8; Saturday, March 10 if needed; Monday, March 12, and Thursday, March 15.
This article was updated March 7 to correct a typo in the first sentence.