The Board of Supervisors budget met again yesterday in order to look for spending savings in the preliminary county budget. With the Fiscal Year 2012 projected budget at $37.963M Supervisors are using a fine toothed comb looking for ways to balance the $1.5M revenue deficit currently forecast in the spending numbers. The consensus from last night’s discussion was that departmental operating budgets are already very lean and that the revenue-expenditure gap will have to focus on big-ticket projects in order to be erased.
As the budget committee, comprised of Supervisors Michael Hobert (Berryville) and John Staelin (Millwood), Joint Administrative Services Director Tom Judge and County Administrator David Ash, took up its work last night, Tom Judge reported that new information gained over the last week indicated $86K in new expenses that the county will be saddled with in 2012.
Judge told the other members of the committee that the Frederick County Sanitary Authority had raised Clarke County’s participation fees from $750 per month up to $2000 per month in the coming year. Landfill costs were also forecast to increase by $22K while contributions by the Compensation Review Board are $49K lower than expected.
The $49K in compensation reductions from the Commonwealth apply to budgets administered by the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Clarke County Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, Registrar and Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Upon hearing that cost estimates were increasing rather than decreasing, the committee turned its attentions to combing through the existing budget yet again in hopes of squeezing out additional savings but with little success.
The budget committee reviewed a number of expenditures where costs had increased over the previous year including Clarke County Park Administration, Virginia Commission for the Arts, Clarke County Planning Administration and bio-solids application. After a thorough discussion of the circumstances surrounding each case the committee opted to leave the budgets at current levels. However, the committee did decide to table a $5.6K request for a new voting machine to assist handicapped voters until more information can be obtained about the need for the device.
After finding little fat in existing programs attention turned to reducing or possibly eliminating larger projects including the proposed Clarke County Senior Center and renovation of the Clarke County Parks and Recreation offices.
The county budget currently projects the Senior Center budget cost to be $975K and the Park Office renovation cost at $598K. After review of existing funding sources for the two capital projects the combined budget deficit is $414K, with $224K contributed by the Senior Center and $189K in unaccounted funding for the park Office.
The budget committee said that one option might be to build the Senior Center while delaying the Park Office renovation.
By the end of the budget review session there appeared to be agreement among the committee members to recommend moving $913K from Clarke County’s existing fund balance and contributing $208K from appropriated funds. Although the $1.121M contribution will still leave a projected $379K deficit, the committee seemed comfortable that the smaller deficit could be erased through normal budget cycle fluxuations in the coming year.
Although the budget committee is working to make its final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors at least two potentially significant budget items remain outstanding; The Clarke County School Board holds a public hearing tonight on its budget which is due for submission to the Supervisors by next week. However, the precise CCPS budget is dependent on education funding legislation currently being debated in Virginia’s legislature.