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Loudoun County administrator lays out $2.3B spending plan

Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet on Wednesday began the annual budget preparation process by presenting a proposed plan for fiscal 2019 that would leave a $10.8 million gap in school funding while providing additional funding for employee compensation and maintaining levels of service.

Hemstreet provided the board with three proposals for the $2.3 billion budget: an equalized tax rate of $1.09 per $100 of assessed value, $1.08 per $100 of assessed value and $1.10 per $100 of assessed value. The $1.09 rate is a 3.5-cent reduction from the current rate of $1.125.

The value of the county’s taxable real property increased by $4.1 billion for 2018 – near peak pre-recession values – and allowed supervisors to advise Hemstreet to lower the tax rate on the fiscal 2019 proposed budget. Commercial property values also increased by more than $1 billion, Hemstreet said.

The $1.09 tax rate is designed “to continue serving our residents well and to maintain the service levels the board expects,” the county administrator said.

Loudoun County right now is in a “favorable economic environment,” but Hemstreet said it’s likely a downturn or recession could hit in the next decade. He encouraged the board to give “equal focus” on the type of services the county provides so they can increase gradually over time. Population forecasts for Loudoun show a steady climb to more than 500,000 by 2040. In just two years, the county’s population is expected to increase to nearly 423,000 residents.

Should supervisors continue with the $1.09 equalized tax rate, the average tax bill is expected to be $5,071. A $1.10 rate would leave a $2.6 million funding gap for public schools and fully fund the county’s needs while increasing the average tax bill to $5,117.

Loudoun County Public Schools' proposed budget for fiscal 2019 is $812.4 million and includes staffing for new schools, expansion of full-day kindergarten, mental health support for middle school students, compensation and benefits increases and resources for new student growth. The student population is expected to increase by 2.3 percent in fiscal 2019, according to Hemstreet’s proposal.

For the first time, Loudoun’s proposed budget includes $12 million in start-up funding for Metro’s Silver Line extension into Washington Dulles Airport and the eastern portion of the county. By fiscal 2020, the county will make its first Metro capital payment of $16.4 million.

The proposed fiscal 2019 budget also includes a merit increase for employees of 3.5 percent, or $8.2 million. At least $8 million will go toward classification and compensation investment. Base budget adjustments make up $7 million of the proposal to be able to continue to provide current service levels, including the operations of new capital facilities. Of the 124 new full-time positions proposed in the budget, the majority focus is on safety net programs in human services agencies and enhancing board priorities in areas such as housing and updating the Comprehensive Plan.

Capital Improvement Program

The county’s $2.4 billion Capital Improvement Program, which maps major investments and upgrades in Loudoun from 2019-2024, includes $1.3 billion for transportation projects. That’s more than half of the proposed six-year plan’s expenditures. The next biggest expenditure is for school projects at $484 million.

The proposed capital budget would also speed up the expansion design of the Fire and Rescue Academy, slated for fiscal 2020 and 2021, and a plan for a new recreation center in western Loudoun.

The School Board’s requested six-year capital plan is also included in the proposal, which would provide funding for full-day kindergarten expansion, a new middle school, address ongoing turnover and updating the bus fleet, as well as school renovations and construction. It would additionally expand broadband Internet to western Loudoun schools.

The Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings on the fiscal 2019 budget beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 27 and 3 p.m. March 1. The meetings will be held in the board room of the County Government Center at 1 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg. A third public hearing is slated for 9 a.m. March 3 at the county’s Public Schools’ Administration Building at 21000 Education Court, Ashburn. For more information of the fiscal 2019 budget, visit http://www.Loudoun.gov/budget.

Comments


Just think for under 3 million dollars a year we could have armed retired law enforcement officers at each of our schools but we got to have FDK, @#%*(%$!


That tax rate should go below $1. It’s sad the rate goes down but I continue to pay more. Time to cut back or have others pay their fair share.


LOWER THE TAX RATE!
Easy to say so here are some reasons it could be done and should be done:
1 Challenge the viability of the longevity salary scales which were added during the final reign of the prior Superintendent and provide higher salaries than even Fairfax pays.
2 Challenge the financial justification of artificial turf fields which are now running well over twice the cost of what was installed at Tuscarora and Woodgrove High Schools esppecially when installed on a perfectly good water well maintained field.
3 Require LCPS commit to staying above per-established bus utilization levels and above minimum class size levels. (no more advanced athletic classes for one quarterback and one teacher/coach)
4 No more free ride for PRCS to usse 189,000 plus hours of gym time while charging the public on retail basis.
5 No more power of no for LCPS to refuse advertising revenues on school sites and courier vans.
6 No more waiving school use fees
7 Challenge the purchase of new textbooks unless getting confirmation from teachers they are using those book and not relying exclusively on their own lesson plans
8 No more approving a new school until all similarly located schools are reviewed for expansion potential.
9 No more reimbursement for travel outside of Virginia by County or LCPS
10 No more free property tax ride for HHMI or hospitals and no more money sent to Mr. Snyder for any reason :-)
Bob Ohneiser Esq.


Let’s review the highlights:

1. County administrator Tim Hemstreet, Supervisor Matt Letourneau and Supervisor Ralph Buona have packed an extra $85-100M into this budget to be used as a slush fund at the end of the year. (just as they have every year going back a decade) It’s not needed to fund the listed budget items and thus our real estate tax rate could be set at 10 cents lower than the $1.09 advertised rate. That would save the avg household $500/yr but would require the BOS to forego giving out their list of goodies with the “surprise” end-of-year balance.

2. That doesn’t even count the $50M excess funding in the LCPS budget that Jeff Morse, Jill Turgeon and Eric Hornberger program in each year. This surplus (excess funding beyond what they actually spend) has increased from $14M in FY14 to $34M in FY16 to a whopping $41M last year in FY17. In fact, LCPS estimated there would be a $12M surplus at the half-way point in FY17. As noted, they had a $41M surplus at the end of the year. This month, LCPS estimated there will be a $23M surplus at the end of this year - FY18. The actual surplus is tracking toward $50M+.

Given the 2 points above, even if LCPS were given an unjustified $41M in salary raises (they have a microscopic 0.6% vacancy rate compared to Fairfax’ 2.0% vacancy rate so obviously their salaries are beyond competitive), the BOS could return an avg of $750/yr (15 cents in the rate) of taxpayers money to them. Will they do it? They certainly won’t unless citizens demand it.

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