Stafford’s Board of Supervisors adopted the FY2021 Budget at their May 5, 2020, meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on local, state and federal revenues as well as on residents, the FY2021 Proposed Budget had to be revamped entirely as significant shortfalls in revenue were projected. Last week, the Board voted to set the real estate tax rate at $0.97, virtually level funding the budget and setting the final framework for the adopted budget.
“We are acutely aware that our County’s population is growing and we need to continue planning for the future, but now is not the time to ask more of residents,” said Chairman of the Board Meg Bohmke. “We could not have predicted the massive effects of the shutdown on businesses and loss of employment across our community. We will hold steady while meeting our mandates until everyone regains their footing.”
Nevertheless, the focus of the budget remains the same - building the foundation for a stronger future by advancing the Board’s Strategic Plan priorities, investing in the County’s core values, reducing risk, and meeting new and continuing obligations. As Stafford grows, the overarching challenge for the community is the ongoing impacts on services and programs from that growth and the ability to meet the increasing needs and expectations of the residents. These budget initiatives will continue to be a part of the ongoing process of building future budgets.
As reported last week, the Board adopted the real estate tax rate at $0.97 versus an advertised rate of $1.03, which is a six-cent reduction. To achieve a balanced budget this year, both the staff and the Board invested a significant effort into the budget process. There was a $15 million difference from the Proposed FY2021 Budget presented in February to the final budget guidance provided by the Board on April 30.
With the adopted equalized tax rate, the budget was level-funded. In addition, there were still several mandates and obligations with a total cost of $3.7 million, added to the budget before funding any priorities. These obligations were addressed by undertaking $4.9 million of reductions in expenditures to manage the projected shortfalls due to COVID-19. By identifying budget savings, canceling summer recreation programs, applying reserve funds, reducing library funding and increasing the meals tax, the Board was able to move on several Board priorities. These actions include the Public Safety Step Plan Placement (including the Advanced Life Support pay and 3% step increase), the implementation of the final phase of Classification and Compensation Study and increasing the School’s base FY2020 transfer by $1.69 million. The Board also voted for approval of Emergency Ordinances EO20-02 and EO20-03, which lower penalties and interest to zero for late personal property tax payments and late utilities payments until July 5, 2020, increasing assistance during this pandemic to taxpayers.
Transportation will see reductions regarding safety road widening projects eliminated due to the loss of recordation fees, personal property funding and the gas tax monies. On a positive note, major road bond projects will only be moved out by one year. The Board also adopted the 2021-2025 CIP with some significant changes such as moving:
- The Courthouse project out by five years, opening in FY2030;
- The Drew Middle School renovation out by one year to FY2031;
- And, the ECSE expansion out by four years, opening in FY2030.
With the adoption of the $ 320,936,567 operating budget, the FY2021 Budget takes effect as of July 1, 2020. More information on the FY2021 Budget can be found by visiting www.staffordcountyva.gov/budget.