Shenandoah County Tax Rate On The Rise?

Divided Board Votes To Advertise 5.5-Cent Hike

Posted: March 29, 2014

WOODSTOCK — The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 on Thursday night to advertise a potential tax rate hike of 5.5 cents, which would bring the total rate to 59.5 cents per $100 of real estate value.

The increase would cover the full amount of Shenandoah County Public Schools’ local funding request, less about $672,000 the supervisors plan to give to the division from its fund balance, or financial reserves.

Supervisors Cindy Bailey and Marsha Shruntz voted against the potential tax hike, while Chairman David Ferguson and supervisors Dick Neese, Steven Baker and Conrad Helsley voted for it.

The proposed county budget for fiscal 2015 of roughly $55.7 million is expected to be balanced using additional moneys from the fund balance.  Any additional tax revenue from a potential increase would be specifically to help fund the school division’s $61.1 million budget, which has a local share of $26.2 million.

The supervisors may decide to pass a tax increase smaller than the advertised 5.5 cents, or decide not to increase taxes at all, but they legally may not pass an increase higher than that without advertising it again and holding another public hearing.

A public hearing about the tax rate and budget will be held at 7 p.m. April 15 at W.W. Robinson Elementary School, 1231 Susan Ave., Woodstock.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Ferguson said he has received many comments from constituents about the budget, mostly in support of fully funding the school division’s requests, and he thought residents should know how that would affect their tax bills.

The Shenandoah County School Board approved its budget Wednesday, slightly smaller than what was originally proposed by Superintendent Jeremy Raley.

The fiscal 2015 budget for Shenandoah County Public Schools comes in roughly $800,000 lower than Raley’s original proposal, which included higher salary increases for non-instructional division employees. Overall, though, the proposed spending plan is a little over $5 million more than the current year’s budget of $56.4 million.

Under the final budget request, which was approved unanimously by board members, non-instructional staff will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase instead of a 5.4 percent raise. That shaved nearly $500,000 from the proposed budget.

Before the division’s budget can be adopted, the supervisors must give its approval to the local funding request.

The School Board also elected to go with a less expensive local renewal choice for health insurance, which trimmed an extra $300,000.

Teachers would still see their salaries rise to the average for those with the same number of years of experience in surrounding districts, with an additional 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Those teacher-specific raises account for about $1.7 million of the budget.

Even with the reduction from Raley’s original proposal, the budget request asks for $3.1 million more in local funding than was approved for this year’s schools budget.

The School Board has been adamant that salary increases are vital to the health of the division. Because salaries were frozen for several years after the recession in 2008, employees with five years of experience in the district make only $200 or so more than teachers who started working this year, school officials contend.

School Board Chairman Rick Koontz and other board members have been clear that the budget is need-based.

“Sometimes, I think about the way we’ve been operating as the way some people survive,” Koontz said Wednesday night. “Most people like to get three meals a day, but you can get by with two if you have to, and I think we’ve been getting by on two meals a day.

“Can you do that forever? No. …  Does this budget get us back to three meals a day? I don’t think it does, but I think it’s definitely working in the right direction.”

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com



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