March 21–York County Administrator Neil Morgan pitched a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that holds the real estate tax rate steady while meeting the school division’s funding request and adding jobs in public safety.
The tax rate would remain at 79.5 cents per $100 of a property’s assessed value. Morgan also did not propose changes to the personal property tax rate or water or sewer charge rates.
The proposed general fund operating budget, which would go into effect July 1, totals $139.2 million. The current operating budget is $141.9 million.
Morgan said the proposed budget is lower than the current one because of pending changes to the county’s accounting, with a new financial system planned to be implemented at the start of the next fiscal year. The main difference, Morgan said, is some sources of revenue would be accounted for under different funds.
Adjusting the current budget to the upcoming accounting system would bring its total to $136.3 million. The proposed budget of $139.2 million is an increase of 2.1 percent, or about $2.9 million.
Morgan said the county contribution to the school division would increase by $1.5 million. The current budget allocates $51.8 million to the school division. The school division’s proposed budget includes new jobs and raises for all employees that average about 2 percent.
The county budget proposal puts $1.2 million toward pay raises for county employees. All employees would get a raise of 2 percent, and employees earning less than $100,000 also get a raise of $750. For the lowest-earning county employees, the total raise is about 4.5 percent, according to Morgan. Additionally, the budget proposal freezes employee cost for health insurance for a year.
The budget proposes hiring four more firefighters, possibly seven if the county wins a grant for which it has applied. The Sheriff’s Office would be able to hire two new deputies, putting its staff of sworn law enforcement at 101.
The budget is built on an expected revenue growth during FY2019 of $3 million. About $800,000 of that comes from the Dominion Energy coal-fired power plant in Yorktown, which was supposed to be shut down but remains in use.
Morgan said he tried to budget all the money from the power plant for capital improvements because the plant is not a sustainable revenue source, but $300,000 is being used to meet needs throughout the budget.
The rest of the power plant money will go to the capital improvement plan. Morgan said he hoped to do more to fund the plan, but he wasn’t able to do more than the $500,000 from the power plant.
The budget proposal does not factor in possible changes from a sales tax bill awaiting approval from Gov. Ralph Northam. The bill would increase the sales tax by 1 percent in York, James City and Williamsburg to create revenue for tourism marketing in the Historic Triangle. Half of the revenue would be used to market area tourism, and half would go to the localities.
The budget public hearing will be at 7 p.m. April 17 in York Hall, 301 Main St., The board is scheduled to adopt a budget May 1.
Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692. Follow him on Twitter @jdauzreyes.
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