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Grayson County has managed to balance its budget without a tax or fee increase for the second straight year.
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the words supervisors and citizens alike wanted to hear during the board of supervisor’s final work session last Wednesday night — “we have a balanced budget.”
After countless hours of meetings and adjustments, supervisors managed to close a nearly half-million-dollar deficit without increasing costs to citizens during increasingly tough economic times.
Not only did the county manage to balance budget, but supervisors also continued to put money towards future projects, a rainy day fund and additional money towards the school system.
During the meeting June 6, supervisors had three main areas left to complete in the proposed budget: sheriff’s department, Fries Recreation Center and the school system.
Supervisors wanted to look more closely at Sheriff Richard Vaughan’s original request of just over $1.9 million for the upcoming budget.
Sweet opened the discussion by noting that Vaughan had worked hard to lower that amount to $1.85 million and that most of his increases were in categories he had no control over.
Of that $1.85 million, the county would contribute $596,897 — an increase of $56,897 over last year.
Things such as a 1 percent cost-of-living-adjustment ($13,000), 3 percent increase in health insurance ($4,000) and a requirement to pick up salaries for school resource officers ($30,000) made up the majority of the sheriff’s increase.
Vaughan had originally budgeted to purchase four new vehicles, but dropped that down to a more manageable two. Additionally, he plans to use money from a surplus sale to purchase a third vehicle.
Vaughan will also not fill a position of a retiring officer this fall to save the county nearly $40,000 in compensation and benefits.
Sweet and Vaughan also had an option for the board to consider to cover the $30,000 increase in school resource officer (SRO) salaries — seeking assistance from the school system.
With a reduction in the county’s local required effort for the current budget, supervisors will use $30,000 of that money to cover the SRO salaries.
Fries Recreation Center
Looking at the Fries Recreation Center’s budget, the supervisors had to decide whether they would provide the usual $10,000 or increase the amount to help cover the costs of referees.
Supervisors Chairman David Sexton said that, based on meetings with Recreation Department Director Keith Weatherman, the county would need to fund around $5,400 in additional money to pay for the refs.
Sexton said he and Weatherman based these numbers on the projected schedule and used the same rates that refs get paid for games at the county’s rec park.
After some discussion, Supervisor Mike Maynard said he would support $15,000 in funding for the rec center.
Supervisors agreed on the number and upped the annual contribution.
Supervisors left their previous budget work session with a deficit. Maynard questioned what filled the gap.
Sweet said there were a lot of adjustments in the last few weeks, noting that the budget was and continues to be very fluid.
There were adjustments and corrections made in a lot of areas. In some budgets, there were missing revenues and in others expenses were lowered.
“The budget was balanced without the extra money from the school,” Sweet said, referring to the $172,000 decrease in funding the county will have to provide to the school system in the current budget due to another significant decrease in student population.
Additionally, the board will consider adjustments to the solid waste ordinance that could affect revenue, as well.
Sweet noted that he put in the lowest revenue possible if the board decides to make additional exemptions to the solid waste ordinance.
If the board does not make those changes, the county will simply have unanticipated revenue that will go towards capital improvement.
The 2012-13 budget includes a 1 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for all county employees and a 1 percent increase that employees will be required to put towards their Virginia Retirement System payments.
Grayson has chosen to take the 5 percent mandate in stages instead of all at once, opting to do 1 percent a year.
Sweet said operational expenses are pretty much flat compared to last year’s spending and that the county continues to “do more with less.”
“You’ve got a good budget,” Sweet told the board. “After July 1 it’s your budget. You all have to defend it, promote it, support it.”
Sweet added that the county was able to increase contributions to each fire and rescue squad by $500 this year and was able to support new requests such as Feeding America.
“We had a policy in place a couple years ago that no new request got funded,” Sweet continued. “We are in a place now where we can do it frugally.
“There are a lot of good things in this budget. I think you have given staff the resources we need to continue to serve the public,” Sweet said.
Grayson schools cut $530,000
Grayson County Public Schools will have to make up more than a half million dollars after yet another significant reduction in student enrollment for the past school year.
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet told supervisors during a budget work session last Wednesday night that the board’s local required effort would be decreased by nearly $172,000 for the 2011-12 budget.
According to Sweet, the county saw another “significant reduction” in average daily membership (ADM), a number related to student enrollment that is used to determine how much money a school system should need to operate.
Numbers are based on March’s enrollment and the school system’s budget will be reduced by $529,904 — $171,906 of which is local funding.
“It’s bitter sweet,” Sweet said of the news.
While it’s beneficial for the county to save the money and increase the county’s working capital budget, it’s upsetting to know that the state will be spending that $358,000 in another school system in Virginia and not investing in the county’s education system.
Sweet told the board that the school system has asked for part of the money, but not all of it. The school board requested that $30,000 of the $172,000 be put toward salaries for school resource officers, $82,000 be used to purchase one new school bus and $27,000 be used to continue running the school system’s activity bus.
The school system would not request the remaining $33,000.
Sweet said the county had originally included $75,000 in the budget to purchase one new bus as the school system continues to struggle with aging vehicles. However, when faced with the task of closing a half-million-dollar deficit, the school board removed the funding for the bus.
This was an opportunity to put some money back into the school system above the local required effort, the minimum amount that it must spend on education.
While supervisors were in favor of utilizing some of the money to continue their investment in education, some wondered if the county should do so with some caveats.
Supervisor Mike Maynard suggested that the county purchase a bus only if the school system found enough money in its budget to purchase one, as well.
Sweet noted that the school system was already looking at a reduction of more than $500,000. With a new superintendent coming on board this summer, it could be tough for the school system to find money to match a bus purchase.
“We do know they need school buses,” Sweet continued. “At some point they have to replace school buses.”
Supervisors worried that if the county gave additional money above the local required effort, then it would be expected every year.
“As large as their budget is already, they should be able to come up with the money,” said Chairman David Sexton.
When asked if any of the supervisors would be willing to make a motion regarding any of those issues, the room went silent for a minute.
“If the alternative is to have no activity bus, then you’ve got my support,” Brewer said, noting that kids in the eighth through tenth grade would be negatively affected if they had working parents and couldn’t compete in sports until they were old enough to drive.
“We need activity buses,” said Maynard. “Why not say ‘we have given you [money] for a bus, but you have to run the activity bus?’”
Sweet said that is one route the board could take. If the school system chose to end the activity bus service at any time, the supervisors could simply not transfer the $82,000 for the bus purchase at the end of the budget year.
Supervisors reached a consensus on the plan and directed Sweet to approach the school system with the offer.
The supervisors will utilize $30,000 of the budget reduction to help offset additional costs for school resource officer salaries and offer the school board $82,000 for a bus if they guarantee to run the activity bus.
The remaining money will be placed into the county’s capital reserve fund.
• Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at their regular meeting Thursday night. The public hearing is one of three on Thursday and is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m.