Following an eight-hour work session Saturday, March 25, the Board of Supervisors was able to reduce the proposed tax rate by only 1 cent, bringing it to 88.75 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value.
Saturday's work session was standing-room only as county government staff members and school administrators packed in to listen to or address the board.
AN ADDITION to the current proposed budget were enhancements requested by the Sheriff's Office, which lost all of its requests in the board's massive $66.6 million enhancements cut last week.
"We need to stop nickel-and-diming those people who are out in harm's way every day to protect us," Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said.
In a straw vote the board approved to allot $2.3 million toward the development of a state-of-the-art firing range that would allow the Sheriff's Office to train deputies 24 hours a day, something Sheriff Stephen Simpson said is necessary.
"We had the situation at the Exxon where the woman was held hostage," he said. "We need to train people who are trained to respond to those sort of situations."
The board voted to approve the request, 7-1-1, because many board members believed it would be nearly impossible to find another 25 acres, the amount needed by the Sheriff's Office for the range, at a better price. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposed the motion and Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) was absent for the meeting.
IN ADDITION, to the Sheriff's Office, the board also approved funding for the Loudoun Youth Initiative, a program that was created to provide "resources to address the diverse needs of Loudoun's youth."
The board voted in a straw vote to approve $400,000 worth of funding that would allow the Loudoun Youth Initiative to run programs on drug use and alcohol prevention as well as bullying and conflict resolution.
Board members agreed that the program would be an important one within the school system and for helping children during after-school hours, but differed on whether the program needed the full $509,000 that was requested.
In the end, the motion that carried eliminated two proposed temporary positions, but kept the bulk of the programs and personnel.
"You voted to make sure this thing works," Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) told the other board members, "why would you vote to derail it now? Voting on all of these dollars for detention, the Sheriff and the courts, that's after the fact. Why can't we put the same type of money towards prevention tactics?"
THE SCHOOL BUDGET did not fare as well in this week's budget session. The board was unable to agree on reinstating any of the $31 million in enhancements it cut last week. In a final motion, Snow proposed to put $18 million back into the budget. The motion failed 3-5-1 with only Snow, Tulloch and Supervisor Scott K. York (I-At large) supporting.
The board was able to vote on and pass a number of smaller motions Saturday, including a motion to lower the proposed county employees' raises to 5.25 percent. The decrease in raises means $1.9 million in savings. The motion passed 5-3-1 with Supervisors Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Delgaudio opposing.
The board also approved to cut $3 million worth of vacant positions. The board asked County Administrator Kirby Bowers to come back with a list of suggested positions to eliminate.
"My initiative was to take vacant positions and cut them," Staton, who made an original motion to cut $2 million in vacant positions, said. "I was trying to take positions that had been funded and eliminate them so they don't go into the base budget next year plus 3 percent [for cost of living growth]."
Supervisors Sally Kurtz (D-Catocin), Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) and Chairman York opposed cutting any positions.
The next budget work session is scheduled for Wednesday, March 29, where the board will pick up, among other things, the proposed capital improvement plan, which was tabled Saturday so supervisors could gather more information about proposed changes.