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    Supervisors prepping for fiscal 2014 budget season

    Loudoun County supervisors will aim to keep residents’ real estate tax bill steady for fiscal 2014, but months of debate lay ahead before the all-Republican board takes a vote on the budget.

    During a Jan. 8 Board of Supervisors finance committee meeting, supervisors asked that County Administrator Tim Hemstreet prepare a budget that would keep the average homeowner’s tax bill level for fiscal 2014.

    The 2014 fiscal year will run from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. For the current year’s budget, the supervisors adopted a tax rate of $1.235 per $100 in assessed home value. That rate was expected to drop the average homeowner’s property tax bill by approximately $200, based on the then-average home value of $401,710, according to county documents. In fiscal 2012, the tax rate was $1.285.

    With assessment, county staff estimates a $1.23 per $100 in assessed value rate would for fiscal 2014 keep homeowners’ tax bills level with the current year.

    As with last year’s budget discussions, the supervisors will have to wrangle over how much of the school system’s requested funding they’ll grant. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is by far the biggest single recipient of county dollars.

    With LCPS Superintendent Edgar Hatrick’s proposed $870 million budget for the upcoming year, there currently sits a roughly $20 million gap between what the schools want and what the supervisors are likely to have available. With a previous “3-cent-reduction budget” for the schools, suggested by supervisors on the finance committee, that shortfall was estimated to be more than $50 million. Members of the finance committee moved away from that approach Jan. 8.

    LCPS has asked for an additional $45 million for the 2014 budget compared to the current year, in large part to open Discovery and Moorefield Station elementary schools next year.

    Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) urged his colleagues during the finance committee meeting to consider a number of factors as they wade through the fiscal 2014 budget process.

    “This fiscal cliff, combined with news we’ve gotten regarding revenues, combined with the fact that in two months we’re going to have potentially a pretty ugly situation in the federal government should give all of us great pause this year as we enter the budget,” Letourneau said. “ … We’re really dealing with a much more uncertain future this year than we were last year.”

    If Hemstreet follows last year’s timeline, he’ll present his budget to supervisors in early February.

    Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), chair of the finance committee, favored starting out the budget direction with an equalized rate.

    “What we’ve essentially done is not over-handcuff ourselves as a board. We’re giving ourselves the latitude to make trade-offs between schools, transportation, public safety and so forth,” Buona said Jan. 8.

    Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
    Staff Writer Aaron Koepper contributed to this report.


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