Supervisors Consider Using School Funding to Reduce Property Tax Hike

Uncertainties caused by the Virginia General Assembly’s inability to reach a budget agreement has caused the Clarke County Board of Supervisors to delay its final budget decision and may also result in elimination of all or part of a proposed two-cent County real estate tax hike. On Tuesday the Supervisors reached consensus to delay any formal budget action for a week in hopes of obtaining a clearer picture from Richmond before making any final decison.

On Tuesday Joint Administrative Services Director Tom Judge presented a range of issues to the Supervisors that will certainly impact the County’s final budget including a possible $116K in unexpected school funding from the General Assembly, $190K savings by delaying County real estate assessments until FY14 and how best to cover a General Assembly-mandated increase in County payments to Virginia Retirement System benefits for County and school employees.

Judge said that even though Richmond’s budget was still in flux Clarke County needed to move forward with formalizing its budget. Judge also pointed out that the County Treasurer required direction on the expected tax rate in order to fulfill her obligation to generate the required tax bills that must be mailed 30 days prior to the June payment deadline.

Judge told the Supervisors that with informal direction regarding the budget issues, as well as the Supervisors’s plans for a proposed two-percent pay hike for County employees, he could then generate a close-to-final County budget.

“With answers to these questions I can put together a budget document that is accurate and stands a good chance of adoption by the Board,” Judge said.

Yesterday’s meeting produced the Board’s strongest consensus on spending plans so far.

Over the course of the County budget deliberations a majority of Supervisors including David Weiss (Buckmarsh), Barbara Byrd (Berryville) and Bev McKay (White Post) have expressed reservations about levying a tax increase on citizens given the weak economy and all three have voiced reservations about any tax increase. Yesterday the Supervisors took a collective step toward addressing the tax increase concern through a budget compromise but at the expense of Clarke County Schools.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which was also attended by Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy and School Board member Dr. Beth Leffel (Buckmarsh), provided an opportunity for CCPS to make a case for retaining the unexpected new funding to make up, in part, for significant budget cuts made by the School Board.

In a statement intended to persuade the Supervisors not to absorb the increase into the County’s General Fund, Murphy offered the Supervisors several options for using the proposed school budget “bump” – which Murphy said could range between $116K to possibly as much as $170K – to benefit students and the community.

Murphy suggested that the money could be used to restore operating funds previously cut for grass mowing at the new high school or that the money could be used to replace Boyce Elementary School’s aging phone system with a new voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) system that leveraged broadband improvements recently implemented by the school division. Murphy also described the need to reinstate an additional new school bus that was cut from the budget earlier in the month.

Murphy said that another option, that would benefit both the community and the school system, would be to use the money for safety improvements and resurfacing two tennis courts and the running track at Johnson Williams Middle School.

But if the General Assembly Conference Committee does follow through on its planned $116K school funding “bump”, the additional money is unlikely to ever make it into the Clarke County Public School coffers after Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood) gained consensus on a plan to reduce County school funding by the same $116K amount.

For each one-cent in property tax increase Clarke County generates approximately $225K in revenue. With the combined $116K in reduced school funding and the $190K assessment cost deferral totaling $306K, the Supervisors are now poised to reduce the proposed County real estate tax rate increase from two-cents to one-cent.

“Whatever we can do to keep the tax rate where it is is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said Supervisor Byrd.

However, a reduction in the tax rate leaves the County with one less option for combating its rising budget deficit.

One deficit reduction option, transferring funds from the County’s approximately $13M rainy day fund rather than increasing taxes, was briefly mentioned but not pursued after Supervisor Staelin expressed discomfort about drawing from the fund any further.

Supervisor McKay, who expressed hope that the tax rate hike might be eliminated altogether, agreed that the current projected County deficit, approximately $800K, was the largest that he ever recalled.

Supervisor Weiss, who has been vocal in his opposition to providing a pay increase for County workers given the soft economy, also expressed concern about the looming deficit.

“To not raise taxes at all seems disingenuous because we are running such a big deficit,” Weiss said. “Perhaps we could replace the ‘raise’ as a ‘bonus’ until we see what happens.”

The Clarke County Board of Supervisors meet on Monday, April 30th at 6:30pm with tentative plans to finalize the FY13 budget.

Comments

  1. This is a poor decision. You’ve already reduced local operating funding for the schools some $1.2 million over the past 4 years. This is a chance for the schools to take care of some essential items that have been delayed time and again because of the dithering of the supervisors. Previously, your board demanded that the schools set aside some $500K from a $900K carryover for capital matters, which hamstrung the schools’ ability to provide resources and other items for its employees and students.

    Now is not the time to shrink from such a modest rate increase. When most other divisions around us are setting up to offer some sort of pay raise for employees, or other investments, for Clarke to go this route is a disservice to its children and employees. How many of my kids’ teachers, now or a little down the road, are gonna take a hard look elsewhere now? How many more deputies will do likewise?

    • Glen Poe says:

      Another solution would be to adjust the Land Use Taxation program. There’s got to be at least 116k that can be made up there.

  2. Another View says:

    Let them go. If they cannot share the pain of the taxpayers who aren’t getting raises either, then perhaps the public employees would be better off somewhere else. We can hire replacements, I promise you.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      AV,
      My question is when would you see fit to give the employees of Clarke a raise? I suspect your answer is never or is it when EVERYONE in the county gets a raise from their employer; again never.

      If the BOS can give the 2% increase to county employees without raising taxes, great! But considering they are running a deficit I suspect they can’t. Using any increase in school funding to alleviate a tax increase only pushes out current needs and possibility of a larger increase next year after the state pushes more of their obligations to the county level.

      • Another View says:

        Teachers have been given raises in the past. Hopefully they will be given raises in the future. But now, when the economy remains fragile at best, and the taxpayers are not receiving raises, is NOT the time for either public employee raises or tax increases.

        How is it that government can never do with less?

  3. My 2 Cents says:

    You get what you pay for Another View….

    • Another View says:

      True enough in every respect EXCEPT for government.

      Besides, I send my child to private school.

  4. Ahhh…but AV, those teachers ARE taxpayers, too, so…the only reason not to give such a raise is to keep your argument valid? Pretty thin argument, AV.

  5. Another View says:

    My argument is not thin. The private sector relies upon the voluntary exchange of goods and services. No one is required to buy private goods and services from any particular private purveyor.

    Government, on the other hand, uses the force of law and incarceration to impose services and demand payment. Even if you do not use the service–i.e. public schools–government requires you to pay for the service. It is a tyrannical system in which the average citizen has no substantive influence. BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF GOVERNMENT, it should be held to a higher standard, and the citizen should be wary. Government employees should be paid less, as it should not be a career for enriching oneself. Government should be restricted to the smallest scope and given the minimum resources.

    Let the individual be sovereign!

    • They tried that already…it was called the Articles of Confederation…and failed miserably.

      You’re advocating paying government folks less than professionals in the private sector, simply because they’re working for the government? Government exists to do those things which individuals or localities can’t, or to bring that “force of law” to hold all people accountable and to the same standard, or to prevent minorities or those less able from being excluded or trod upon. Is it a perfect system? Not by a long shot, because it is set up and managed by humans.

      By their very nature, governments must levy taxes and fees to do their jobs well, hire good staff, and meet the needs of the people; unlike a car company, or a realtor, or a store, there is no “hustle and flow” to boost revenue outside of fee or tax increases..the only exception being new applications for building permits, or business licenses, or whatever. However, in this county, those types of fees are either non-existent (like the BPoL tax) or are so ridiculously low that there is no possible way to see any sort of gain (the business fee of $30 instead of a % of sales).

      You get what you pay for…starve the beast, Grover-wannabe, and watch the level of service drop.

      • Another View says:

        Travis, your citation of the Articles of Confederation is not apt. Moreover, if you read both the federal and Virginia Constitutions, you will notice that the individual is sovereign under those documents. It is only in practice that the government has encroached on the individual, involving itself in matters better left to the people.

        Like education. You yourself state that government “exists to do those things which individuals . . . can’t”. Well, parents are more than capable of educating their children, at home or in private schools. If government didn’t spend $14k per pupil per year, and instead allowed parents to keep those funds, parents could easily afford to choose for their children.

        And yes, if you are a government employee, you should make less than a private sector employee, just by nature of your employment. What happened to the notion of public service?

        • Fly on the wall says:

          An interesting argument, AV…government employees should be willing to live in less-affordable housing, drive lower-value cars and wear lower-value clothing, and give up other middle-class options simply because they have chosen to apply for and accept an offer of public employment. You really are a piece of work. If we want the best for the buck, what sort of motivation is there to attract the best and brightest if salaries are not at least competitive?

          When education was run by others, then some were left out, or their parents (who didn’t value it) short-changed their kids by keeping them out of schools, or whatever. The system in place now, while it sure ain’t perfect, to me seems like a better setup than that. You seem to forget that the costs of education, or any service, are spread out over the entire tax-paying population; who here in CC, aside from a notable few, could pay $14K+ per year for their child’s education outright? Right there, your argument begins to leak.

          As to your “individuals are sovereign” mantra…yes, we are. And we the people chose to set up a government that, at each level, organizes ordinances and laws to deal with a host of issues we collectively, over time, have felt were important. You and Travis clearly disagree, and you clearly won’t be happy until the government runs on financial fumes.

          • Another View says:

            Life is full of choices. When you choose to work for the government, you necessarily are choosing a simpler, less affluent lifestyle.

            And I don’t want the “best and brightest” in government (and by the events of the day, I appear to have gotten my wish). Rather, the “best and brightest” should be in the private sector where their full potentials can be achieved. Carnegie, Mellon, Vanderbilt, Ford, the Wright Brothers, Einstein, Edison–all were among the “best and the brightest of their time, and none achieved their greatness in government. NOT ONE!

            And your argument in support of public education seems to be that government loves and cares for our children more than we do. Nonsense! It is the parents’ responsibility to raise their children. Neither you nor I, nor the government, have any business dictating how child rearing is to be accomplished. The fact is, most every child would be educated in a world without public education. But the fact that some might not be does not warrant the establishment of the public education system or the intrusion of government.

            Frankly I want my child to be well educated, which is why I choose private education. I do not desire that government teach my child anything, as government proves everyday that it is incapable of my every task. And I do not desire my child to be indoctrinated by the public employee class. Neither should you!

            Yes, the government should run on fumes. The government is here to serve the people, and not the other way ’round. Government service should not be a path to riches, nor an excuse to dictate to the populace.

          • Fly on the wall says:

            Wow, AV…[redacted]

            I didn’t say that the government “loves and cares” for our children more than anybody else. Rather, what I DID say is that the government got into the educating of the children when too many were denied access to schooling for whatever superficial reasons people came up with, to make it as equitable as possible for everyone, regardless of stripe, to get an education.

            That you’d so willingly toss aside those who couldn’t afford an education in some sort of sick Darwinian “tough noogies” nonchalance tells more about your lack of concern for your fellow man than anything else.

            Referencing those giants of science, industry, and innovation is a deflective stunt, as there is no basis to compare anything they achieved or did (for good, or in a few cases, ill) with what government employees do. Addtionally, Einstein achieved his lasting fame while working for the government on The Manhattan project and other efforts that paid for his research and Mellon (assuming you mean Andrew W.) served 10 years as Secretary of the US Treasury (*gasp* a government employee, albeit one with a huge private fortune from the banking and industrial industries before that). Still…those folks grew up in a time where being a school dropout (as nearly all of them were) was not the hindrance to success that it is now.

            My kids are getting a very good education in the public schools, and I’m proud of the job those folks do [redacted]

          • Panama Jack says:

            Wasn’t Einstein educated in Europe? (gasp again)

    • ELizabeth says:

      So teaching is not a career for enriching oneself. Nice. So glad this community supports the teaching profession. I guess we should just give up on public education and let those who use it pay, and if you can’t I guess you end up in prison and we’ll take care of you eventually.

    • Panama Jack says:

      OK, Another View, I see. The VA doctors should be paid less merely because they work for the government. My view is that they should be paid more because they have to deal with the horrors of the wars that we, as a country, have committed ourselves.

      • Another View says:

        There should not be a VA hospital system. Private doctors can handle the work.

  6. Different View says:

    Wow some high walls here! To start with you left out Greece. The Euro country that has a checkbook problem. 65% of the population were paid directly from the Government. Work 6 years in the government and enjoy a 80% retirement check the rest of your life. A good plan but ultimately had some money issues. Trying to cut Government benefits this past year ran people in the streets marching, protesting and whining. Oh my! They are miserably bankrupt as you probably know. Trace it back to their politicians who approved the process a penny at a time.

    A root cause of government costs are the people we elect as our stewards to manage the business based on their campaign promises. Take a look at the BOS & School Board lineup, our state representatives and federal representatives. I am retired and most of these guys look that they should have been long gone before me. Out of touch to reality? From an era that the government knows best don’t question it? The constituents are sheep and will follow? Yep! Are you really surprised you hear the same tune over and over with little results?

    Public school teachers are required since that is the way our tax collections are devised. Let me see; probably attended a state funded college paid for by tax payers, got that 5 year BS degree finally with the help of student loans, paid for by taxpayers and takes the entry job as a teacher, paid for by taxpayers mostly 9 months of work not including spring break, and holiday vacations and snow days. I missed those in private enterprise. With union tenure can make it to retirement, paid for by tax payers. My hope is along the way they at least buy some Greek food. The Greece economy still needs the help!

    Somehow our no child left behind program evolved into a tax money pyramid, paid for by taxpayers that didn’t leave enough of the teachers and managers behind instead. Let’s face it we have the B Team in the lineup, our politicians and public employees. The A Team is out there in private enterprise making it on their own taking the risks and working to pay taxes. Our Government based services are Socialistic to be sure everyone is offered an opportunity. What is no surprise is private teaching establishments, Religious, Private and Home School surpass Public education in every category. Their impact and results are the economic value of goods and services?

    So who cares about a penny tax even it is based on a property assessment that is overvalued by >30%! I am not a teacher but maybe it does add up to a few more pennies? The government said it’s good so dare we question it. Remember to vote or better yet run for an elected position this fall. Meanwhile just smile and say OK.

  7. Got-A-Dollar says:

    We have a Republican govenor and legislature. If you disagree with teachers having to contribute to their retirement remember that in November. Republicans have always attempted to balance budgets on the backs of public employees and the working class. They detest public education.
    Look at Winchester delaying John Kerr school and advocating a baseball park and team. Most Winchester City council is republican.
    In November remember, it is this president thet supports the working class.
    And teachers, when you are in you little groups bad-mouthing this president ask yourself which party supports you.

    • Another View says:

      This President cares not a wit for the working class. What we need is political leadership that will loosen goverment’s hold on the people. Then citizens will be free to make their own fortunes again.

      • Clarke 1 says:

        Well the only class the Repubs are worried with are 250k and over. I am no where near that. SO I will take Obama any day of the week.

      • Got-A-Dollar says:

        Then what do we get more trickle down? The only thing we get from GOP is trickled on!

    • Wagonman says:

      Got-A-Dollar, Of course Obama supports workers, but he has a soft spot in his heart if you are a UNION worker. That fact has been evident from the very beginning. Can we say UAW, NEA, SEIU . At one time unions were necessary to protect workers in a hazardous workplace, but they have become a bloated monster with too much political clout.

  8. Got-A-Dollar says:

    Unions no longer have clout and Republicans would repel minimum wage if the could.
    We have had the Bush era tax cuts for ten years and jobs have not been created from the “job creators”.
    Eliminate tax breaks for publicly traded companies. Why should all taxpayers foot the bill for subsidizing the few shareholders? Include rental income in the capital gains tax rate, housing will soar.
    We give every break to big corporations and Wall St. and they could care lees about America or Americans.

  9. Got-A-Dollar says:

    Hey Another View, when Obamacare is upheld by the Courts we can eliminate the VA. And the next time you think about your freedom, Thank a Vet.