The Floyd County Board of Supervisors has proposed a budget for Fiscal Year 2021 that represents a 15% increase in spending compared to last year.
The budget will go to public hearing on Tuesday, June 23 at 8 p.m. at the County Administration Building, during which time members of the public will have the opportunity to offer feedback on the proposed expenditures. The final budget will be approved by the Board on June 30.
The Supervisors’ proposed budget is the result of several budget sessions held in the past few months, although Locust Grove District Supervisor Lauren Yoder acknowledged during the Board’s last meeting that “Back in April, we didn’t work on it because we were unsure of the safety of it.” Little River District Supervisor Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch also said the Board “didn’t work on this budget as long as I have worked on other budgets in my five years (as a Supervisor).”
Spending on the county’s public schools, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Social Services represents some of the largest portions of the budget.
The Public Education Fund accounts for the largest share of the $43 million budget, coming in at just under $24 million, or about 56% of spending. Public safety spending—including the Sheriff’s Office, emergency services, contributions to the regional jail, EMS and Fire & Rescue Squad funding, and funding for the E911 program, comprise about $4.7 million.
Social welfare spending—including allocations for the local health department, mental health services, the New River Agency on Aging, the Department of Social Services (“Public Assistance Fund”) and the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) fund—total about $4 million in the proposed budget.
The county’s budget proposal comes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which many local governments anticipate will cause significant revenue shortfalls. During a budget planning discussion in April, Town of Floyd Mayor Will Griffin told the Town Council, “Maybe our starting point for the budget this year needs to be scrapping all nonessentials.” He continued that, “It would probably be foolish of us to say, by August or September, things will be back to normal, and to budget that way.”
During that April meeting, Griffin pointed out that meals and lodging taxes account for 47% of the town’s budget, both of which will likely take a huge hit this year as tourism declines due to closures and cancellations resulting from the pandemic.
The Roanoke City Council earlier this week passed a budget that spends $1.4 million less than its current fiscal year budget, and which also sets aside $1.75 million in contingency funding in case the economic damage gets worse in the coming months, according to reporting by the Roanoke Times.
In Blacksburg, the Town Council approved a budget that is 5.3% higher than its current year’s, although Town Manager Marc Verniel said the budget was primarily put together earlier this year, prior to the pandemic reaching Virginia, and he expects it will need adjustments moving forward.
Montgomery County likewise published a budget that represents an increase in spending, but a much smaller increase than in Floyd. Its budget, which passed May 12, represents a 4% increase over current year, but the county simultaneously voted to put several million dollars’ worth of items on hold, the Roanoke Times reported.
While they passed the budget as proposed earlier this year, supervisors selected more than $6 million in spending to defer due to the economic uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among Floyd County Supervisors, Kuchenbuch has been the most vocal during public meetings about concerns she has with the budget. Kuchenbuch has called for an “austerity” approach to the next fiscal year’s budget.
“I am concerned in my role as the Little River District Supervisor, that our county’s budget is not reflective of the financial uncertainties that lie ahead due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Kuchenbuch said during a recent phone interview. She said that budget sessions are set by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Joe Turman, and that she requested more budget sessions than were scheduled. “I had asked to meet more on the budget. I have consistently asked for more to be cut from our budget,” Kuchenbuch said.
She said she thinks between a 3.5 and 5% decrease in all budget items, excepting social services and those determined by state formula, would be appropriate. “I believe that it is the responsibility of the elected public servants of any county to prepare for the worst case scenario in times like these,” Kuchenbuch said, citing a projection from the governor’s office of a potential $1 billion revenue shortfall as a result of the pandemic.
State Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne revised that estimate on Monday to $600 million, but said the loss of sales and use taxes is likely to hurt most in local government budgets.
Local contributions (particularly meals and lodging taxes) account for about $18 million of Floyd County’s expected revenues next fiscal year. In the proposed budget the Supervisors have shared with the public, the county is anticipating $7.5 million in revenues from the state government, which would represent a $3 million increase over last fiscal year.
During last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Yoder pointed out that logistically, since this proposed budget has already been publicized, it’s the version Supervisors necessarily must discuss during the public hearing on June 23. He said the county government would be doing a disservice to constituents if they amended the budget at all before the public hearing date. “At the end of the night on the 23rd, people may come out and say, ‘That’s the budget we want,’” Yoder said. If not, he said the Board should meet sometime in the seven days between the public hearing and the deadline to approve on June 30 to make revisions to the budget.
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