Loudoun budget officers are projecting the county government will have around $100 million left over from last year’s budget, and some of that may go to the project to improve Rt. 9 near Hillsboro.
Members of the Board of Supervisor’s finance committee recommended sending $7.5 million to the project as soon as possible. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said the town cannot award a contract until that funding is in place, and supervisors will vote on that expenditure on Nov. 21, before the next board decides in January how to allocate the rest of the fund balance from Fiscal Year 2019.
When that time comes, supervisors will also consider hiring five more firefighters at the Loudoun Heights station—also because of the Rt. 9 work. With work on Rt. 9 impacting traffic on the main route in and out of northwestern Loudoun, according to Fire-Rescue Chief Keith Johnson, help from other stations may be slow to come when Loudoun Heights crews respond to a call.
Johnson requested additional staffing for the Loudoun Heights station, where currently the same crew members man the ambulance and the water tanker, meaning there aren’t enough to run both at once. And with no fire hydrants in far northwestern Loudoun, firefighters often have to bring their own water.
Supervisors will consider whether to spend $350,000 of fund balance for half a year’s funding for five more firefighters at Loudoun Heights, allowing 24/7 staffing for the tanker truck and ambulance. The money would hit approximately halfway through the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.
Several other county departments could also get a mid-year shot in the arm. The Office of Elections and Voter Registration has requested $640,000 for new electronic poll books, getting a jump on next year’s presidential elections when the agency’s current software and hardware will no longer be supported. Another $814,000 will go toward hiring a security consultant, buying safety equipment and hiring three more deputies to provide security at county government offices on Ridgetop Circle. $130,000 could go toward additional mowing along roads, after concerns over the previous year about high grass.
Typically, the county reserves some money for the next budget to buffer against tax rate increases.
About half of the available surplus funding would go into the county’s capital budget, $26.4 million just to replenish the county’s contingency reserve for capital projects.
The county staff had also suggested reserving $218,000 in case supervisors decide the county should collect glass separately from other recyclables, after finding that glass increasingly is being viewed as a contaminate with mixed with other recyclables, resulting in those collections ending up in a landfill. Committee members decided instead to put that money into contingency funding, and could come back out if needed after supervisors vote on the recycling program.
Allocating year-end fund balance is an annual job for county supervisors. Last year, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget finished with $99.6 million left over. Then, too, the Rt. 9 project got funding—that time, $2.5 million.