Just last month, the County was projecting a General Fund operating revenue increase of 4.7% or $14.8 million in the Proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The advent of COVID-19 changed the financial position of Stafford County along with localities across the nation. Stafford is now projecting a $6.54 million impact in the current year (FY2020 Budget) along with financial implications for the next fiscal year’s budget.
“We spent months preparing an FY21 budget, and right after we presented it to the Board of Supervisors, the pandemic hit, changing everything within a few days,” said County Administrator Tom Foley. “We are doing everything we can to deal with next fiscal year’s budget, along with making some substantial changes for the current fiscal year.”
In the current fiscal year (FY20), Foley immediately implemented the following actions to meet the $6.54 impact:
- A freeze on all non-essential hiring;
- A freeze on all non-essential spending;
e budgeted reserves; and,
- Delayed the start of capital projects until further analysis can be completed on the breadth of this impact.
With these emergency actions in place, Foley has informed all department directors to discontinue any discretionary spending, especially as COVID-19 related costs have increased. In addition, various programs and services have been scaled back or eliminated, including Parks and Recreation programs.
At present, the County is projecting $3.30 million less in revenue at the FY21 Proposed Budget real estate tax rate of $1.01 (current rate) per 100 of assessed value. Over the past few weeks, the Board of Supervisors requested several different scenarios given the state of economic conditions. At the April 14 Budget work session, County staff presented the following budget modifications at a real estate tax rate of $0.979:
- Delay the proposed Public Safety Salary Step Plan;
- Remove the 3% proposed salary increase for all employees;
- Remove any school increases outside of mandated expenditures related to the Virginia Retirement System;
- Remove all new positions, except for a very few critical positions;
- 10%+ Operating budget cuts across all departments totaling $1.34 million; and,
- Eliminate all new initiatives such as expanded Fire and Rescue services and new Sheriff Deputies.
With already over $18 million in expenditure reductions for FY2021, the Board will continue to take a further look into additional revenue and expenditure changes. At a rate of $0.979, further impacts on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) would also include a reduction of debt capacity by $13.7 million. Debt capacity allows the County to take on major capital projects. As a result, this budget impact will bring challenges in funding future projects like high school #6, the new Courthouse and other capital projects.
For real estate, the average assessed value is $325,500, with an average tax bill at $1.01 totaling $3,288 per calendar year. That means every 1-cent change on the tax equals approximately $32.55. It is important to note that reassessments are completed every two years.
The Board is scheduled to hold final public hearings at the April 21 board meeting at 7:00 p.m. According to the budget calendar, the Board is scheduled to adopted the tax rate, Fiscal Year 2021 budget, CIP and water and sewer fee. More information on the Proposed Budget may be found at www.staffordcountyva.gov/budget, along with the complete Proposed Budget document, the County Administrator’s presentation, and a Proposed Budget highlight sheet. The materials for the April 21 Board of Supervisors meeting may be found at www.staffordcountyva.gov/publichearings. Public Input may be made via www.staffordcountyva.gov/publichearings up until April 21.