Buckingham County supervisors sign off on operating budget

Published 4:25 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It was by far the quickest meeting for the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors this year. But Monday night’s meeting was also one of the more eventful, as the group voted to move forward on both tax rates and an operating budget. 

By a unanimous vote, Buckingham supervisors agreed to adopt a real estate tax rate of 60 cents per $100 of assessed value. The vote was 6-0, with Supervisor Paul Garrett absent. The decision will increase the real estate tax rate from the current 55 cents. This also marks the second straight year Buckingham has raised its real estate tax rate. Last year at this time, supervisors voted to go from 52 cents to a 55 cent rate. 

So where does that place Buckingham? Fifth in the region in terms of real estate tax rate. Lunenburg is first at 33 cents, Amelia is second at 38, Nottoway is third at 48, Prince Edward is fourth at 51 and now Buckingham is tied for fifth with Cumberland, which is lowering their own rate from 75 cents to 60. 

Email newsletter signup

Other tax rates will also go up, as a result of the supervisors’ vote. The aircraft tax rate, currently 55 cents per $100 of assessed value, will go up to $1.10 per $100. The public service corporation tax rate, currently 55 cents per every $100 of assessed value, will now go up to 60 cents as well. A few tax rates will remain the same, including personal property at $4.05 for every $100 of assessed value and $2.90 for machinery and tools. 

The Buckingham County budget

Before taking a vote on the proposed operating budget, Supervisor Danny Allen asked Buckingham County Administrator Karl Carter one final time, if there was anything he or his department could do to trim the budget. Or, Allen asked, are we seeing it as tight as it can get. 

“There were some small things we could have cut, but it wouldn’t have made enough difference,” Carter said. “We’re hoping we won’t overspend our budget and we will stay underneath our budget, so you should have money left over for the next fiscal year.” 

The final approved operating budget comes to $70.395 million, with $8.5 million set aside in local dollars to help fund the schools. That, along with one more addition we’ll mention in a minute, almost fully funds the school board’s requests they made last week. 

School officials originally asked for $7.596 million in this current budget year. Then they came back, asking the county to fill the shortfall left due to the state’s budgeting error. On Sept. 11, 2023, supervisors gave another $111,521 to the district, in order to give bus drivers a raise. Then on Jan. 8 of this year, supervisors gave another $170,000 to the district, requested for teacher raises. That adds up to $8.503 million, which is what was funded in the budget unanimously approved on Monday. 

But for the upcoming school year starting in August, the school board asked for the $8.503 million again, along with an additional $535,112, to fill in gaps caused by price increases, a loss in state funding and the ending of several federal grants. That adds up to $9.038 million. While they didn’t get that full request, the district did get a concession of sorts. 

The reserve plan 

Included in the budget were two ‘reserve funds’, one for the schools and one for the county’s EMS services. The school district received a reserve fund of $390,000, while EMS got $240,000. To be clear, neither the school district nor EMS can actively access those funds right now. In fact, in each case, if they want to use money from the reserve, both groups would have to come before supervisors and request it. 

“The Board will have to take action to release those funds,” Carter told The Herald. “The reason behind the schools’ reserve was to allow more time for the state to adopt a budget and have a better picture of where the school funding stands and to have time for the county to have its annual audit done to know our exact financial position.” 

The state budget is still not finished, with the Assembly expected to reconvene in mid-May to continue the discussions. That means the school districts don’t know exactly how much they’ll receive from the state, as the amounts in the proposed House, Senate and governor’s budgets were all very different. 

As for the EMS reserve, it was set up so Buckingham County supervisors have more options when it comes to the Arvonia station. The current plans are to staff the Arvonia station 24/7, but there’s still a lot of data needed. The county needs to know the number of calls and what kind of resources will be needed in the Arvonia station, so they’re setting aside the $240,000 to be used as needed. One project has already come as a result of the reserve. Supervisors, after setting up the $240,000 EMS reserve, voted to use $20,000 of it for building renovations at the Arvonia station. Now depending on the information the county receives in the months to come, the remaining money can be used to staff a 24/7 station, or address other needs as requested by EMS.