Public gives input on budget

Published 5:20 pm Thursday, April 12, 2018

Members of the public voiced comments and concerns following a public hearing with the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors Tuesday where the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, the proposed tax rates and the five-year capital improvement plan were presented.

Vivian Seay Giles

No action was taken during the hearing.

County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Seay Giles said changes to the budget include a health insurance premium increase of 15 percent for employees and the county portion, a cost of approximately between $80,000-$100,000. Giles said this has been the second consecutive year the premium has increased by 15 percent.

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The budget also includes an increase in the refuse disposal due to a new contract with Container Rentals, LLC, approved during the March Board of Supervisors meeting. Board Chairman Kevin Ingle estimated that the cost of the refuse disposal could come to between $1-$3 million. Giles said the budget shortfall could come to $500,000.

Potential ways to cover the shortfall, Giles said, could include two items under negotiation that could total $600,000; repealing the county’s land use tax program applicable to forest or increasing the real property tax rate by 5.5 cents.

Giles said another potential item would be to reduce school funding by $50,000 in the event of additional state funding.

“I do think that with reasonable estimates and assumptions, we can close that gap,” Giles said.

Another suggestion would be to utilize reserve balance funds, but Giles said this suggestion was not encouraged.

She noted a potential $10,000 increase in the allocation to Piedmont Regional Jail from $260,000 to $270,000.

Three members of the public spoke during the hearing, including Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin.

Griffin said the division is requesting level funding from the county and noted that they have sought ways to maintain expenses and create competitive beginning teaching wages with other counties.

“There’s a teacher shortage, not only in Cumberland, but in Virginia and in the nation,” Griffin said, who noted two teaching positions in the elementary school had been cut. “We’re competing for teachers, qualified and good teachers that our students deserve.”

William Bruce spoke during the hearing about the proposed budget and the proposed tax rates.

He was critical of the county’s decision to place funding in certain projects, including the shell building that was installed in the area of Poorhouse Road in 2017 and asked the board to prioritize saving above spending.

“You can’t spend it if you don’t have it,” Bruce said. “Stop spending money.”

Leroy Pfeiffer Sr. asked the board to consider keeping the land use tax program applicable to forest.

The board will meet on April 17 at 7 p.m. to potentially vote on the tax rate for the fiscal year 2019 in the event there are no alterations.