Carroll balances budget with no tax hike

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County spending plan tops $80M, with about half of that paying for education.

By Shaina Stockton

HILLSVILLE — Carroll County is one of many localities forced to move forward with incomplete spending plans this year because of legislators’ indecisiveness over the state budget.
However, county officials say they are pleased to have reached a budget agreement that will not include a tax increase for residents this year.
The fiscal year 2015 operating budget totals $80.4 million.
Budget approvals were short and sweet this month, spanning over two separate meetings on May 5 and May 12.
At the May 5 meeting, the Carroll Board of Supervisors discussed the county’s budget, and then made a quick vote of approval for the school budget.
Chairman David Hutchins began the discussion that evening by talking about the General Assembly’s budget impasse. The House of Delegates and Senate can’t agree on a spending plan for Virginia, which means localities like Carroll don’t know how much funding from the state they have to work with in their budgets.
Hutchins said the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) held a lengthy discussion on the situation at its spring meeting and it encouraged “all counties to send letters to their legislature, asking them to develop a budget and pass a budget.”
Counties are forced to move as far in their own budget plans as possible, with only a best guess of state funding.
The board held a brief public hearing May 5 on the county’s fiscal year 2015 budget. “This has been reviewed and looked at by a lot of different folks, and we are having a public hearing in compliance to be sure we are transparent and open, and the public knows how our budget is coming,” said Hutchins.
The public hearing was opened at 6:39 p.m., and closed at 6:41 p.m. when no one came forward to speak.
The board elected to wait on their vote.
Monday, the board revisited the county budget.
“This wasn’t a fun year, but thanks to Nikki [Shank, Carroll’s assistant administrator] and our staff, we did get a budget,” said Tom Littrell, Pipers Gap District supervisor.
“This has been a tough year, and we so desperately didn’t want to give cities a tax increase this year… so we made the adjustments that we thought were necessary,” said Phil McCraw, Fancy Gap supervisor.
Hutchins explained that there were a significant number of counties in the Commonwealth that were forced to include a tax increase — some of them very significant. “The truth of the matter is that even though we are [voting on] the budget today, we really don’t know what the state is going to do with their portion at this time.”
Unanimously, the board approved the budget draft as it stood from the public hearing.

School Budget
At the May 5 meeting, the supervisors also were asked to consider the fiscal year 2015 budget for Carroll County Public Schools.
According to the budget draft, the total school operating expenditure is $40.9 million.
Of this total, $28.7 million was earmarked for instruction; $1.7 million for administration, attendance and health; $3.1 million for pupil transportation services; $4.1 million for operation and maintenance services; $1.6 million for school food services and other non-instructional operations; and $1.7 million for technology funding.
In addition, the food services budget in the amount of $2.7 million and the school textbook fund in the amount of $375,500 was offered for approval.
“Will there be any carryover funds?” asked Supervisor-At-Large Sam Dixon.
“There might be some funds put towards a bus,” answered Finance Manager and School Board Clerk Tammy Quesenberry. “We are looking at one that is a 71 passenger bus… we want it bigger so that we can reduce some of the routes.”
Despite his position as a bus driver for the school system, Dixon declared during the vote that the budget does not affect him and that he was able to vote on them without a conflict of interest.
Unanimously, the board approved the draft budget as presented.

In other action May 12, the board:
• discussed and approved the Carroll County Gas Utility Fund totaling $398,915.
• discussed and approved a six-year road plan for the county.
• heard from the commissioner of revenue, who spoke concerning the extra workload with the upcoming elimination of the assessor’s office. A motion was made to take her requests under advisement, and the motion was passed.
• heard from a citizen concerning the conditions of a road near his residence. The board assured that the condition of the road had been noted, and put on a list for improvements.