Loudoun supervisors adopt $2.5 billion budget, lower tax rate
Only Supervisor Koran Saines (D-Sterling) opposed the new budget tax rate of $1.125 per $100 in assessed value, which is two cents below the current tax rate of $1.145.
At the new rate, the average Loudoun County taxpayer will save roughly $80.
County Administrator Tim Hemstreet initially prepared the budget at $1.135 per $100 in assessed value based on the board’s guidance. However, supervisors changed course last month and voted along party lines on a motion brought by Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) to reduce the current tax rate by two cents.
The $1.135 rate would have fully funded the school’s budget request.
Supervisor Saines said after the vote he would have considered voting in favor of the proposed budget, but because Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) shut down discussion of the spending plan Tuesday, he said he could not vote for it.
“Going into [the budget], I envisioned it would be a little bit higher possibly what the county administrator advertised, because we definitely had a lot of room to work with than in years past,” Saines said.
Although he said he agreed the budget will improve county services, he thought it could have done more.
“We still left some things on the table at the end of the day,” Saines said.
Supervisor Volpe argued there had already been “plenty of discussion” on the budget over the course of the board’s work sessions and knew that she had colleagues who wanted to add supplemental motions and move items around.
“I told residents in my district we are done, and are done with this process and had our discussions,” Volpe said.
The adopted budget does not change the personal property rate of $4.20 per $100.
It includes a transfer to Loudoun County Public Schools of $747.9 million -- a 7.7 percent increase in local tax funding compared to fiscal 2017.
The budget also adds funding for 211.99 new full-time equivalent (FTE) county positions, including 67.90 FTEs for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services; 40.27 FTEs for Fire and Rescue and 34.56 for Library Services.
Additionally, the budget includes a 3 percent merit pay increase for eligible county employees.
Supervisors also adopted a $2 billion Capital Improvement Plan for a six-year period, with 39 percent going to transportation projects and 31 percent going to the schools.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said she thought staff did a good job at moving the budget process forward, but noted she did not like the approach of some supervisors to get down to a “certain tax rate.”
She said their approach was not the way to go about the budget process.
“I believe that when the staff comes before us we should listen to each department and judge them on the merit of what they’re asking for," Randall said.
The chairwoman said she was disappointed the board could not could not give more funds to the school system and local nonprofit ECHOworks.
In a last-minute attempt, Randall tried to send $1.9 million from the county’s general fund to LCPS to purchase more buses -- a move she said would not change the tax rate. But several supervisors objected.
“Staff has been telling us that we’re using too much fund balance as it is, so we should not raid fund balance for next year, which is exactly what we’re doing in order to fund additional things this year when we’ve already considered all these issues during our work sessions,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said.
Randall’s motion failed 3-6, with chairwoman, Saines and Supervisor Kirsten Umstattd (D-Leesburg) in favor of the motion.
Umstattd also tried to send $1.5 million to LCPS from fund balance for books and digital resources and another $400,000 for the county's Department Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services Employment’s $1 million critical needs request. Both of her motions failed.
The fiscal 2018 spending plan will go into effect on July 1.
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