County administrator to begin work on fiscal 2013 budget guidelines
It may only be October, but Loudoun County potentially faces a entirely new set of supervisors in 2012 to wrangle with the budget.
To try and provide some guidance to the new members, supervisors on Oct. 4 unanimously voted to direct County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to prepare the base fiscal 2013 budget with three scenarios.
Those scenarios include a zero percent increase over the current equalized tax rate; a 5 percent increase over the current rate; and a 5 percent decrease over the current rate.
The current tax rate is $1.285 per $100 of assessed value.
Hemstreet will also establish a review committee rating process for regional organization funding.
“I think it is incumbent upon us to have the county administrator lay out explicitly the consequences of various options to those new board members, both in a plus sense and a minus sense,” said Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), chairman of the county’s Finance and Government Services Committee.
During the last two budget cycles, supervisors have taken this approach.
It continues to be needed, supervisors said, since the county still is facing tight economic times and the uncertainty of state and federal funding.
Predictions for the fiscal 2013 equalized tax rate have not yet been released.
However, finance staff have said that a equalized tax rate could be possible.
Supervisors last year approached the budget season with a predicted shortfall of $100 million. This year, it’s estimated to be $74.5 million.
The fiscal 2013 shortfall assumes $23 million in increased property tax revenue, based on the current tax rate of $1.285, and $17 million in new revenue from personal property taxes.
In addition, there is an estimated increase in the operating budget for Loudoun County Public Schools of $72.2 million and $22 million for county government operations. The cost for new county facilities will increase by $3.8 million.
The board on Oct. 4 also instructed Hemstreet to prepare a fiscal 2013 budget that will maintain the current 66 percent to 34 percent funding split between schools and the county.
Loudoun County Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick won’t present his budget until January, instead of before the end of the year as he as done in the past, county staff said.
This new development gave supervisors more incentive to start the fiscal 2013 budget guidance process early, said Vice-Chairman Susan Klimek Buckley (D-Sugarland Run.)
“If we wait until December … we in effect could have no influence over it,” Buckley said.
First term supervisors like Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac) said new board members are hit with the budget during the first few weeks of their terms – an endeavor that can be, at times, overwhelming.
Having options, she said, will lay out the consequences more clearly.
“… Seeing those clear options, it was very educational. But most importantly, it brought the community out when they saw the potential impacts of what those different levels were,” McGimsey said. “That’s going to be crucial with the next board.”
The fiscal 2013 budget won’t be adopted until the spring, but half of the funding for that budget comes from taxes collected at the beginning of 2013.
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