Loudoun County supervisors facing an ugly budget picture for fiscal 2018
The guidance to Hemstreet came during the final fiscal discussion before county staff begins producing the county budget that will go into effect July 1.
Supervisors’ request includes directing Hemstreet to provide options that could reduce the tax rate to the current real property tax rate.
The equalized tax rate is that which will not raise taxes for the average county homeowner.
Director of the Department of Management and Budget Erin McLellan told supervisors that since the preliminary budget guidance update to the board in October, the real property estimates from the commissioner of the revenue had changed substantially because of a revaluation of the county portfolio.
According to the county, the latest estimates from the commissioner of the revenue show that revaluation was close to negative 1 percent. McLellan warned the current numbers pointed to a “sizable shortfall.”
“Because of the revaluation projection that is coming out of core, which is based on about a 90 percent completion rate of the assessments … the equalized rate would actually be higher than the current rate by the penny,” McLellan said. “So we’re looking at an equalized rate of a $1.155.”
The management and budget director explained that, at the current rate for Loudoun County Public Schools, new revenue would be about $53 million, leaving a shortfall of roughly $22 million. At the estimated equalized rate, new revenue would be about $58 million, leaving a shortfall of $17 million.
Ahead of the vote on the estimated equalized tax rate of $1.155, some supervisors argued the amount was too high, while others thought it was only just enough.
“I think it’s always fiscally more responsible to try to start with the lowest baseline and then look at increases,” Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) said. Meyer's motion to direct the county administrator to prepare the fiscal 2018 budget at the current real property tax rate of $1.145 failed for lack of a second.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) argued that a rate of $1.155 was still not enough to meet the needs of the various county departments.
“I don't know how I can look at county employees, let alone county citizens, and do anything less than $1.155 because I think that’s the right number, especially having sat through the finance committee meetings,” Randall said.
Vice Chair Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), who has worked now on six county budgets, said starting with a $1.145 rate or lower would only be “digging yourself a deeper hole to start with in the budget process.”
Supervisors voted 7-1-1, with Meyer opposed and Supervisor Koran Saines (D-Sterling) absent, to send Hemstreet the $1.155 rate.
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