During the Board of Supervisors’ second markup session Thursday night, Loudoun’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget grew at a rate of nearly $300,000 per hour.
Supervisors reviewed the spending requests of six county departments, adding about $1.18 million to the 2.5 billion budget recommended by County Administrator Tim Hemstreet.
The board has four more work sessions and 14 more department wish lists to review, so the pace of budget increases will have to slow to hold the proposed real estate tax rate at $1.135. And the talks will have to go in a different direction if, as some supervisors have suggested, the tax rate will be lowered by the time the final budget is adopted in April.
The Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services was the winner Thursday, getting an additional $653,336 to add crew to the Kirkpatrick Farms Fire-Rescue Station and to hire two more safety inspectors. That funding is an addition to the 14.5 percent increase, to $75.8 million, Hemstreet proposed for the department.
The department also will benefit from a $9,600 transfer from the Board of Supervisors’ budget. County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) proposed an initiative to increase the pot of money available to reimburse fire and rescue volunteers for college tuition from $20,600 to $50,000 annually by the end of the board’s term. Supervisors agreed the proposal may have merit as a recruitment and retention tool, but preferred to examine the impact of the program outside the budget talks, suggesting the finance committee take it up. That path was cemented when Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) volunteered to transfer the $9,600 from her district office budget to provide the fiscal year 2018 boost. That brought one of the night’s rare unanimous votes.
Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), who has stated his intent to reduce the real estate tax rate to $1.125 by cutting at least $7.6 million from Hemstreet’s budget proposal, voted against the fire-rescue staffing increases. He also sought to cut the number of new dispatcher positions in the budget from 5.6 to 3.6 to save $134,000, but got no support. Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) joined Meyer in opposing funding for the two inspector positions.
In other action, the board added $258,361 to the Department of Management and Budget to hire a capital projects analyst and a grant specialist; $78,626 to hire a technician in the Planning and Zoning Department; $208,358 to hire a utility engineer and a management analyst for the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure; and $91,227 to add an accounts receivable administrator in the Finance and Procurement Department.
The board also made two cuts from Hemstreet’s budget.
The budget added $4,634 to the planning department to provide raises to the chairman and vice chairman of the Planning Commission. Supervisors were surprised to find the change, which had been requested by the commission, buried in the budget without the request first coming to them for approval. Supervisors, who are planning a debate over whether to raise compensation for the next board, said the commission’s stipends should be examined as part of a more comprehensive review. Supervisors said raises for the commissioners are likely, but the board’s finance committee will take a look at it first.
The other cut was deeper.
After spending the evening on the losing side of votes, Meyer got a win in his proposal to add only one new workforce planning specialist to the Department of Human Resources. Hemstreet’s budget included two new positions. The 5-4 vote cut $98,608 from the budget.
Supervisors will reconvene Monday night to take up the courts, Treasurer’s Office, Commission of the Revenue’ s Office, Elections and Voter Registration and County Administration budgets.
Currently, there is about $700,000 in unallocated funding at the $1.135 tax rate.