The Board of Supervisors held a special meeting Saturday morning after staff members discovered a problem with one of the budget-related motions the board made at its April 4 meeting and voted to reaffirm the 89-cent tax rate it set on Tuesday night.
The meeting was held on the morning of April 8 to accommodate supervisors' schedules and to allow County Treasurer H. Roger Zurn to mail tax notices to residents.
On Thursday, board members were alerted there was a problem with a motion originally made by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), which funded 24 new sheriff's deputies by making a 3 percent across-the-board cut in the county's operational and management budget. The 3 percent cut would have resulted in $2.7 million of savings, covering the requested deputies, which were valued at $2.4 million.
The problem with the motion came when staff members discovered that several agencies' operation and management budget could not be easily adjusted to create the needed savings.
Budget manager Ari Sky told the board that after applying the 3 percent cut to the operating and management budgets, there was a total of $1.6 million in savings, leaving a gap of approximately $800,000.
WHEN BOARD chairman Scott K. York (I-At large) explained the situation at the start of Saturday's meeting, he said the board convened because one of the options to make up the lost revenue was to raise the 89-cent tax rate. In order to create the savings needed, the tax rate would have had to be raised a quarter of a cent.
York made it clear, however, that raising taxes was not the only option for fixing the problem.
"There are about four ways that we can do this," he said. "One is to simply approve or reconfirm the motion with the understanding of what it means for the various agencies. We have the option of redirecting funds from general government and schools. The other option is that, out of the $7 million that was given to the schools, take $2.4 [million] for the Sheriff's Office."
The meeting, which was added to the schedule late Friday afternoon, was met with opposition by some of the board members. Supervisors Lori Waters (R-Broad Run), Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) and Staton were not present at the meeting.
Waters, who originally planned to attend, put out a public statement saying she believed that the meeting was being held illegally.
"Considering that one supervisor had not received his own notice as of 4:30 yesterday, and also considering that the county's electronic system was down until at least 11 p.m. last night, I question whether the public has been well-informed of this meeting," she said in the statement, which was handed out at the morning meeting.
Both Staton and Delgaudio refused to attend the meeting for similar reasons.
MANY OF THE supervisors who were present did not believe that the meeting was being held illegally because it was qualified as a special or emergency meeting, which only requires the public to be notified at the same time the members of the board are, not the three business days notice required for regular meetings.
"This is not a secret meeting," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), vice chairman of the board, said. "This is not an illegal meeting. This is a meeting to solve a problem. I think this meeting was appropriate and in the right order."
However, the supervisors who were not present questioned whether the issue at hand called for an emergency meeting when the board had a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.
"I do not believe today's call is an 'emergency,' of any kind," Delgaudio said in an e-mail.
In addition to reaffirming the tax rate, the present board members voted to forward consideration of Staton's motion to its April 18 meeting. At the meeting, where all supervisors are expected to present, the board will discuss whether it can find an alternative source of the revenue needed to grant the Sheriff's Office its additional deputies. Until a final decision has been reached, however, the sheriff's department, and possibly other agencies, will remain in limbo and the budget debates will continue.