Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet on Wednesday presented a proposed fiscal 2022 budget totaling $3.3 billion in appropriations for the county government and Loudoun County Public Schools.
The proposed spending plan is balanced with a real property tax rate of $1.005 per $100 of assessed value, which is three cents lower than the current real property tax rate of $1.035 based on a final assessment portfolio from the Commissioner of Revenue.
The Board of Supervisors directed Hemstreet to prepare the proposed budget at a real property tax rate of one cent above the overall equalized rate. However, Hemstreet said “positive shifts” in the revenue picture that occurred after the board’s final guidance in January and a lower-than-anticipated budget request from the school division prompted him to prepare a budget at a lower tax rate—one-half cent above the overall equalized rate.
“Prepared at the tax rate of $1.005, the proposed budget provides for what I believe are the necessary positions and funding to maintain or—in key strategic areas, enhance—service levels for the county government, open new facilities and compensate employees at a market rate, as well as position the organization to support the Board of Supervisors’ priorities,” Hemstreet said in a prepared statement.
The county administrator said spending initiatives include the expansion of the adult drug court, resources for collective bargaining and the expansion of the body-worn camera program totaling $4.2 million.
Hemstreet said the county continues to add approximately 10,000 residents a year, which brings new and increased demands on county programs and services.
Key points of the proposed budget are:
-Restoration of the $60 million COVID-19 revenue uncertainty reserve included in the fiscal 2021 adopted budget and an additional increase of approximately $97 million (10.3 percent) in local tax funding to LCPS, which fully funds the LCPS budget request.
-The addition of 150 positions in 21 different county departments to open new facilities, maintain or enhance current service levels, support the county’s CIP and position the organization to pursue the board’s strategic priorities.
-$9.5 million in base budget adjustments to continue to provide current services, including increases in contracts and ongoing maintenance agreements, lease and utility increases and inflationary impacts.
-An increase of $12.4 million in total for employee compensation, which consists of: $9.4 million to provide a 3 percent merit increase and a step increase for public safety employees and $3 million to continue the implementation of the new classification and compensation system.
-An increase of $45.3 million to fund debt service and capital needs of the county government and LCPS.
The proposed budget also includes funding for the county’s operating and capital subsidy payments to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority due to the anticipated start of Metrorail’s Silver Line revenue service in Loudoun during fiscal 2022.
The amended fiscal 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which includes both county and school projects, totals $3.2 billion for the six-year planning period. The category with the largest expenditure percentage is transportation projects at 37 percent, followed by school projects at 26 percent, which incorporates the School Board’s adopted capital plan and accommodates all requested school projects.
Hemstreet said new projects include the Arcola Quarters for the Enslaved, which will restore an existing historic site in Arcola to a passive and educational recreation facility, and the local match for the FEMA grant to mitigate flooding issues in Selma Estates.
The CIP also calls for accelerating critical board priorities, including the Western Loudoun Recreation Center and the Remote Site Connectivity project, which expands broadband to five county sites in western Loudoun.
The county administrator provided the board with two additional tax rate scenarios for their consideration: at one cent below and at one-half cent above the tax rate of the proposed budget.
The school division budget request is fully funded at the $1.005 tax rate.
The board will determine the final real property tax rate and related budget policy decisions during March budget work sessions with adoption of the fiscal 2022 budget expected on April 6.
Budget public hearings set for: Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Feb. 27 at 9 a.m.
Budget work sessions are slated for: Feb. 18 — Capital Improvement Program work session; March 1 — Budget work session; March 3 — Capital Improvement Program work session; March 4 — Budget work session; March 8 — Budget work session; March 11 — Budget work session; March 15 — Budget work session; and March 18 — Budget work session.
All work sessions are scheduled for 6 p.m.