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    Without tax hike, county budget still peppered with enhancements

    Thanks to rising home values and an expanding commercial tax base, Loudoun County's fiscal 2015 budget appears to be in shipshape.

    Members of the Board of Supervisors have been sifting through the hundreds-of-pages spending plan during work sessions this month. Thus far, there have been few surprises of points of contention.

    Even in the absence of a tax hike, supervisors can fund more than $9 million worth of enhancements within county government, including more than 80 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs).

    The nearly $2 billion budget proposed by County Administrator Tim Hemstreet carries an equalized property tax rate – that which will keep the average homeowner's tax bill level – of $1.155 per $100 in assessed value. That's down significantly from a rate of $1.205 in fiscal 2014.

    According to a budget summary from Hemstreet, substantial savings have been realized in the Department of General Services due to renegotiation of leases and contracts for services. This has led to reductions in personnel, operating expenditures and number of vehicles for the county fleet.

    The general government’s proposed operating budget includes no reduction in FTEs and includes enhancements relating to the opening of new facilities, public safety initiatives and social services. The budget enhancements, along with a proposed 3 percent pay raise for county employees, total $15 million.

    Additional highlights from the budget that appear likely to earn supervisors support:

    -A $20,000 increase to the county chairman's budget, largely “to accommodate increased staff salaries and other related expenses related to responding to constituent issues across all eight districts and representing the county as a whole on numerous regional boards and organizations,” according to the budget document.

    -More than 15 new positions at the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, ranging from staff at the Adult Detention Center to forensic specialists to school resource officers.

    -Two additional managers to the Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure for a cost of $315,000.

    -More than eight FTEs to staff the new Round Hill Aquatics Facility at a $353,000 expense.

    -Funding for four full-time positions to staff the tankers at the Philomont Volunteer Fire Co., at a cost of more than $410,000.

    -Twelve county building code inspectors to help meet time lines mandated by the state law and the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code for more than $1.2 million.

    -An additional $150,000 to the county's library system for new books and materials and more than $70,000 for the funding of youth program coordinator for the libraries.

    As he's known to do during the budget-crafting process, Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) has been quick to suggest slicing up long-established chunks of expenditures.

    Delgaudio, during a March 13 work session, questioned the need for the county to be members of regional organizations like that Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. None of his colleagues seconded his motions for the county to withdraw from the NVRC and NVRPA.

    Hemstreet responded by saying, in his opinion, it's “highly important” the county is part of regional planning groups, especially those dealing with transportation.

    The Board of Supervisors is expected to finalize its fiscal 2015 budget the first week of April. The next budget work session is March 20 at 6 p.m.

    Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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