Loudoun County administrator presents $1.98 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2015

Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented the county Board of Supervisors Wednesday with a proposed budget totaling $1.98 billion for the upcoming fiscal year – a funding plan that leaves the county school system facing a potential shortfall of more than $50 million.

Following the board’s direction, Hemstreet prepared the budget assuming an equalized real property tax rate of $1.155 per $100 of assessed value, which would mean that the average Loudoun homeowner would not see a real property tax increase.

But at the $1.155 rate, Hemstreet said, the county budget could not come close to funding the $952 million spending plan proposed by outgoing Loudoun County Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III for the 2014-15 academic year. Hemstreet recommended that the Board ask the school board for more detailed information about how the school budget would be affected at different funding levels ranging between the equalized rate of $1.155 and the advertised tax rate of $1.215.

“In order for the board of supervisors, the school board, and the public to engage in the dialogue appropriate to balance needs with resources, additional data should be requested, or existing data reformatted and provided by the school system that gives insight as to what can be accomplished on a programmatic level through options at different tax rates,” Hemstreet said in his presentation.

The county’s current advertised tax rate is well above the equalized rate, at $1.215, Hemstreet said. That number represents the maximum possible funding level that supervisors could consider – affording them flexibility to determine if, and where, to add or cut costs. At the advertised rate, the county would have enough revenue to fund the vast majority of Hatrick’s proposal.

The board of supervisors is meeting with the school board Feb. 18 to review a presentation on the schools’ proposed operating budget and capital program, officials said.

Hemstreet said the proposed fiscal plan focuses on the board’s strategic priorities – including development and transportation projects – and also continues a pay-for performance plan for county employees, enhances public safety services and protects human services safety net programs.

“I believe the plan I am presenting today reflects the Board’s commitment to providing quality services through open, accountable, efficient and responsive government,” Hemstreet said.

The proposal reflects a positive economic outlook for the county, as property values increased by over 8 percent over the past year, Hemstreet said. Those values are projected to increase by more than 5 percent over the coming year, he added.

The board will determine the final tax rate and related budget policy decisions during March budget work sessions with adoption of the budget expected by April 2, according to county officials. The personal property tax rate of $4.20 would remain unchanged under the proposed fiscal plan.

Residents will have a chance to comment on the proposed budget at several public hearings, scheduled from 3 to 5 and 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 26 at the government center. If additional speakers wish to comment, a follow-up hearing will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 27. A final public hearing is set for 9 a.m. to noon March 1 at the schools administration building in Ashburn.

Residents can also give feedback on the budget during regularly scheduled public hearings and can e-mail comments to supervisors at loudounbudget@loudoun.gov, or mail their comments to the Board of Supervisors, 1 Harrison St. SE, fifth floor, Mail Stop 01, Leesburg, Va. 20175. The public can also leave a message on supervisors’ comment line, 703-777-0115, officials said.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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