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Bowers Presents 2008 Budget to Board

Under proposed budget, tax bills would increase by average of 2 percent.

During his presentation to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, County Administrator Kirby Bowers said that he created the fiscal plan for 2008 around keeping Loudoun citizens‚ quality of life high.

"This proposed fiscal plan was guided by an assessment of where we stand today as a community and as a county government and the things we need to preserve and enhance as we build our future," he said.

Bowers revealed the county's fiscal year 2008 budget to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Feb. 13, with an advertised real property tax rate of 97.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The fiscal plan totals approximately $1.38 billion in appropriations to the county government and Loudoun County public schools.

"Our recent population of 273,000 will grow to over 300,000 by year 2010," Bowers said. "This intensive growth and development carries with it ever-changing service demands, needs and high expectations on the part of our citizens."

The proposed fiscal plan includes $887.5 million for the school system, $438 million for county expenditures, $46.7 million for the new Fire and Rescue tax district and $8.2 million for the Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth (CSA).

Approximately $236.1 million of the county's budget and the Fire and Rescue tax district would require local tax funding. $532.5 million of the school's proposed $719.6 budget would require local taxes. Under Bower's budget, the county's per-pupil spending would increase about 8.3 percent, from $12,161 in fiscal year 2007 to $13,176 in fiscal year 2008.

"Education of our children is our top priority," he said.

THE 97.5 CENT tax rate would represent an increase of approximately 2 percent in the average residential tax bill, or $85, Bowers told the board. Of the 97.5 cents, 70.6 cents would go to the school system, 26.5 cents would go to the county government and less than one cent would go to the CSA. Bowers also created a budget at a 95.5 cent tax rate, which would keep the average tax bill level and one at the current 89 cent tax rate, reducing the average tax bill by approximately 7 percent.

"My proposed fiscal plan follows the board's direction last fall to limit the impact of the fiscal ’08 budget on residents’ tax bills," Bowers said. "This is the first decline in resident tax bills since the early ’90s."

Bowers said that the fair market value of land is expected to increase from $62 billion in January 2006 and $64 billion in January 2007 to an estimated $69 billion in January 2008.

"These increases are significantly less than the county has experienced in recent years," Bowers said.

FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 through fiscal year 2012, the county's Capital Improvements Program (CIP) totals approximately $1.7 billion. The program covers funding of six new schools in the county, 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and an advanced technology academy.

The county government portion of the CIP includes money for land purchases for county projects and transportation projects and totals $723 million. One hundred and sixty three million dollars are earmarked specifically for transportation projects, including improvements along Route 7 and funding for the Dulles corridor rail project.

"Because of debt limitations, my proposed CIP is limited to items identified in last year's board adopted CIP plus the school's Advanced Technology Academy, additional funds for land acquisition for school projects and the county government center request for partnerships initiated by the Board of Supervisors," Bowers said. "Financing a CIP of this magnitude means significantly increasing our debt payments and decreasing our debt capacity."

Bowers told the board that the debt payments in fiscal year 2007 totaled $122 million and by fiscal year 2012 they were projected to rise to nearly $208 million, or a 71 percent increase.

"I believe the 2008 fiscal plan provides us with a foundation and the resources we need to continue to address our most pressing challenges and help maintain our high quality of life," Bowers said.

COUNTY BUDGET initiatives in Loudoun's fiscal year 2008 budget:

* Staffing and initial funding for the Lansdowne Fire and Rescue station;

* Funding for criminal investigators and school resource officers;

* Funding for Loudoun Youth Initiative programs at the Claude Moore Recreation Center, Cascades Library and the Purcellville Teen Center;

* Caseload-driven staffing for Health Services, Family Services and Mental Health/Mental Retardation/Substance Abuse Services;

* Maintenance staffing for Parks, Recreation and Community Services; and

* Market-based compensation adjustments for county employees.

Projects included in the CIP:

* Fire and Rescue stations in Aldie, Kirkpatrick Farms and western Loudoun;

* Funding for renovations to fire and rescue stations and additional apparatus;

* Expansion of the new Adult Detention Center and the Juvenile Detention Center, a second youth shelter, adolescent day treatment facility and adolescent residences;

* Broadlands recreation center and the Gum Spring Library;

* Renovations to the school system's former North Street administration building;

* Regional park and ride lots;

* Emergency and transitional homeless shelters; and

* Supported-living residences and group-home projects for mental health and mental retardation clients.