Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:23 am
By TRACY BELL InsideNoVa.com
A proposed county budget that fully funds the schools’ superintendent’s request is a rare occurrence in Stafford County, according to County Administrator Anthony Romanello, who delivered the fiscal 2017 proposed budget Tuesday to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
“I’ve been in public service local government for 24 years. I’ve been in Stafford County for 12,” he told the board. “I get to say something today I’ve never been able to say before. And that is, this proposed budget fully funds the superintendent’s request — first time in 24 years I’ve ever been able to say that.”
The proposed $274 million budget includes $144.6 million for Stafford schools, representing an increase of $845,000. That figure would provide funding for 69.5 new positions, including 36 teachers, 29 paraprofessionals and 4.5 other positions. It includes a salary increase at 2 percent across the board for all employees, as well as market-based scale and salary adjustments for teachers and support staff.
“We have fully funded the superintendent’s request,” said Supervisor Jack Cavalier, I-Griffis-Widewater. “I never thought I’d be able to say that.”
The proposed budget allows for other increases too, including bus replacements and textbooks, and an increase in the Virginia Retirement System contribution rate.
The proposed budget includes a 2 percent salary increase effective July 1 for county employees, five new full-time county positions and two conversions from part-time to full-time.
Other highlights to the proposed budget include recommended funding for 15 new firefighters, as well as a major and three deputies for the sheriff’s office; and a courts salary supplement to address turnover. There is full funding for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and the Stafford Opportunity Fund, as well as the Germanna Community College, Stafford County Public Schools and Central Rappahannock Regional Library partnership.
The proposed budget also includes operating funds for Embrey Mill and Lake Mooney parks.
It is comprised of a utilities rate adjustment that includes a fixed increase and a 5 percent variable consumption increase for three years.
County staff is also working on a competitive health insurance package, Romanello said.
But calendar year 2015 had the highest turnover rate in the county in the last five years. There’s been an uptick in turnover rates, particularly within public safety, Romanello said. For that reason, the county will be taking a closer look at exit interviews and other data to determine the underlying causes.
Between the sheriff’s office and fire-rescue, the turnover rate is 13.9 percent. Other positions in the county held an 11 percent turnover rate that year, he said.
“Clearly, 14 percent is certainly an alarming rate for us and one we want to bring down,” Romanello said.
The proposed budget also includes a recommendation to lower the real-estate tax rate from $1.019 per $100 of assessed value to the effective rate of 99 cents.
The average residential bill since the 2014 reassessment is down $28 on an inflation-adjusted basis, Romanello said.
But if that rate is approved, residential real-estate tax bills will still increase by an average of $19 based on the current year’s reassessment, which boosted residential property values from an average $269,000 to $282,000.
Tracy Bell can be reached at email@example.com.