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Mecklenburg County budget calls for no tax hikes, cuts of $3 million

SoVaNow.com / May 13, 2020


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on county tax revenues was the main focus of conversation as the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors met in work session Monday to discuss the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. The meeting was livestreamed on YouTube for the public.

County Administrator Wayne Carter presented an overview of the draft budget, which tops out at $215.3 million — $128.65 million in general fund items and another $86.6 million in capital and other planned expenditures. The proposed budget is set to go into effect July 1.

The package comes without any tax increases, but Mecklenburg County is facing a 5.5 percent fee increase for water service from the Roanoke River Service Authority.

The budget includes $72.4 million in capital expenditures for the construction of the new consolidated secondary school campus in Baskerville.

Carter said overall spending is down over $3 million from the current year as the county faces the possibility of a struggling economy and double-digit unemployment. Most of the cutback will take the form of delayed capital improvement projects. “This is not what we had planned,” he said.

The county’s current budget is for $218,503,856. Of that sum, which $121,414,745 is for the general fund and an additional $97,089,111 is for earmarked funds. The current budget runs out June 30.

Spending from the general fund is up $7.2 million over the current year — $4 million of that is industrial stimulus grant money and another $2 million goes to the school division. Most other county agencies and departments are “flat funded,” according to Carter.

School officials have asked the Board of Supervisors to allocate $59,639,782 in local money for a school budget that would have included step pay increases for qualifying school division personnel. Carter said he was not recommending pay increases for any county employees. His decision, he said, was in line with what is happening in surrounding counties.

Carter recommended funding for the schools of $57,565,068, while noting that the school division might need additional funding at some point in the near future.

Superintendent Paul Nichols said he’d hoped the county would increase it local contribution to the school division since Mecklenburg’s composite index — a measure of its ability to fund schools locally – had increased slightly, according to state calculations. With the county seeing a rise in the local composite index, the Virginia Department of Education will be sending fewer dollars to the local school division, Nichols noted.

Carter countered that because the division ended the year with a higher student population than initially projected, Mecklenburg County Public Schools would receive an additional $1.3 million from the state.

Carter said the budget for Tri-County Area Agency on Aging was increased by $10,000 from $55,000 to $65,000 as the agency is expected to expand its domestic violence services now that Southside Center for Violence had to cut Mecklenburg County from its service area.

McCallum More Museum and Gardens had asked for additional funding, according to Carter, though he was not specific about the amount of the increase. No increase was recommended.

One department that did receive an increased budget was the Tourism Office, albeit only a slight gain in funding. Carter said the additional $5,000 recommended for tourism will be used for the “Tap Mecklenburg” campaign designed to draw visitors to the area to enjoy craft beer and distilled products.

Spending on fixed charges is projected to increase by nearly $27,000. Carter said these expenses all involve insurance costs, workers compensation, line of duty and insurance for the rescue squads.

The Town of Boydton sought an additional $20,000 from the county, but that was not recommended at this time.

Carter said the $2.36 million capital outlay budget will cover the cost of renovating the Bruce Library Building in Boydton and demolishing Buckhorn Elementary School in Baskerville.

The general fund or operating budget covers some or all of the general operating expenses for the multiple agencies in the county as well as fire and rescue services, Meherrin River Regional Jail, and local airports. Collectively, the general operating budgets for the Sheriff’s Office, Social Services, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Meherrin River Regional Jail, corrections and pretrial services are up less than $500,000 over the current year.

Proposed capital expenditures are $86,646,561 million for fiscal year 2020-2021, with $72,393,990 of that spent on construction of the county’s new consolidated secondary school complex. Another $750,000 will pay for a new convenience center for trash collection near Clarksville and $4 million is earmarked for Microsoft-related projects.

Mecklenburg County anticipates revenue of $128,650,365 in general operating funds and an additional $86,646,561 in earmarked funds for a grand total of $215,296,926. Included in those totals are $32,715,626 in state and federal sources for the school division.

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