Supervisors Fix Budget Issues

Supervisors Fix Budget Issues

The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the proposed fiscal year 2007 county operating budget for the final time during its Tuesday, April 18, meeting following two weeks of issues with both the budget and among the board itself.

The latest budget vote came after staff members discovered a problem with one of the budget-related motions the board made at its April 4 meeting. Following the discovery, the board held an emergency meeting to address the issue Saturday, April 8, where it reaffirmed the 89-cent tax rate that had originally been set at the April 4 meeting.

Thursday, April 6, board members were alerted there was a problem with a motion originally made by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), which funded 24 new Sheriff's deputies by making a 3 percent across-the-board cut in the county's operational and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.

TUESDAY, THE BOARD voted 5-2-2 to allocate $716,000 to fund seven of the original 24 positions in the Sheriff's Office. Five of those positions are for court security and two are motorcycle deputies for traffic safety.

Supervisors Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Sally R. Kurtz (D-Catoctin) opposed with motion. Supervisors Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Staton were absent for the vote.

"These are critical positions," Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said in an earlier interview. "We need the court security people because it costs three times as much if someone is working on overtime."

The $716,000 needed to fund the new deputies will come from a variety of sources. The $188,000 that remains of the revenue generated by the 89-cent tax rate and the $500,000 generated after the original motion for a 3 percent reduction in operating and management budgets was reduced will both be allocated to the Sheriff's Office. The remaining $28,000 will be made up by the Sheriff is his own budget.

The motion, originally made by board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large), represents less than a third of the money given to the Sheriff's Office in the original motion, but even with the lowered costs some Supervisors continued to oppose giving the Sheriff any additional deputies.

"I looked at the Sheriff's vacancies," Burton said. "He currently has 65 vacant positions and we have already approved an additional 29 positions. It seems to be there is plenty of room to rearrange some of those vacant positions to fill those seven positions without having to add any more money to the budget."

Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) attempted to allocate even more money to the Sheriff's Office by making a motion to reallocate $1 million of the money earmarked for schools to the Sheriff's Office.

Tulloch said that after the Saturday meeting leaders in Loudoun County Public Schools stated they were willing to do their part to help the county's public-safety system. The motion was later withdrawn when Tulloch anticipated little support for the motion on the rest of the board.

"I do not support taking an additional $1 million from schools," Kurtz said, just before Tulloch's withdrawal. "It is my understanding that it would seem to be appropriate that if you have 94 positions not filled that there could be some reassessment of positions needed."

FOLLOWING THE allocation of additional funds to the Sheriff's Office, the board voted to readopt the $1.4 billion budget and the 89-cent tax rate, which is a 15 cent reduction from last year's $1.04 rate, but still means an average tax bill increase of $421.

The board also approved the FY '07 Appropriation Resolution, which includes a $443 million transfer to the school fund and $300 million to the county government.

Each of the first three budget motions passed by a 5-3-1 margin with York, Staton and Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voting no.

"I did not support the other items because, one, I think we have not done enough for the schools and, two, I did not like the way we handled the volunteer [fire and rescue] system," York said. "If you look at the FTEs [full-time employees] per 1,000 people, we are lower [than in the past], but I just don't think we have done all the right things in the budget that we could have."

The final budget issue the board voted on was the county's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). There was still contention amongst board members about the county's involvement in road development.

Supervisors who opposed the $12.5 million that was included in the CIP for road design and engineering fell into one of two camps; either they felt the county should stay out of road development or they believed $12.5 million not earmarked for a specific project was not enough of a commitment to road improvements.

"The money we are spending is merely for design and engineering and is not going to put asphalt on the ground," Staton said. "If we wait for the state to step up and do their part we are going to be waiting for a long time."

The continued debate over road projects caused some Supervisors to anticipate a 4-4-1 vote, which would cause the CIP approval to fail.

York made an appeal to Kurtz, who does not support funding any road projects with property tax money, to approve the CIP in order to put the issue to the voters.

"This is the only way that those of us who are in favor of this and those who are not in favor of this will actually hear from the voters," said York, who does not like the idea of allocating money for design without naming specific projects for construction.

In the end, the board voted 5-3-1 to approve the CIP, with Kurtz, Delgaudio and Staton voting no and Waters absent.

IN ADDITION TO the final budget decisions, the Supervisors voted to approve the rezoning of 30.59 acres east of Pinebrook Road and south of Route 50 in Dulles South to create the Townes of Avonlea. The rezoning will allow for the development of up to 117 single-family townhouses and 15 affordable housing units with 3.82 units per acre. Supervisors Kurtz and Burton opposed the rezoning.

In another act of rezoning the board approved the rezoning of 2.33 acres south of the current Ridings at Blue Ridge development and north and west of the East Riding Estates. Supervisors Burton, Kurtz and Tulloch voted no.

The rezoning would allow for the development of up to eight single-family homes at a density of 3.4 units per acre.