The Franklin County Board of Supervisors voted April 2 to advertise flat tax rates and move forward with the $143.8 million budget proposed last month.
The board will hold public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rates at 6 p.m. April 16 at the county government center and plans to vote on them April 23.
The real estate and personal property tax rates would remain the same as the present fiscal year under the advertised budget.
The board last year increased the real estate tax rate by 6 cents, to 61 cents per $100 of assessed value, and the personal property rate by 10 cents to $2.46 per $100 of assessed value. The county’s real estate rate, the primary generator of local tax revenue, is still among the lowest in the Roanoke Valley.
Deputy County Administrator Chris Whitlow gave supervisors an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments during a budget work session.
Overall, supervisors said they were pleased with the budget crafted by county staff. But some expressed a desire to give an additional boost to the salaries of county employees, who are currently slated to receive a 2 percent raise.
Though the state compensation board budget includes funding to support a 3 percent salary increase for constitutional officers, the county is proposing a 2 percent increase for those employees funded by the compensation board as well.
The compensation board funds positions in constitutional offices such as the sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney, among others. The compensation board funds just over 100 positions in Franklin County constitutional offices, according to data on its website. However, some of those constitutional offices have additional positions funded with county dollars.
Blue Ridge District Supervisor Tim Tatum said he worried about the discrepancy between the figures proposed by the state and county.
“It’s kind of demoralizing for them whenever they hear the news the state has approved 3 percent and they get 2 percent from the county, ” said Tatum, who is a retired employee of the sheriff’s office.
Meanwhile the county school division plans to increase its total salary base by 3.2 percent, providing its employees a one-step increase on the salary scale and a 1 percent bonus to those employees at the top of the scale.
Superintendent Mark Church said the division is relying on savings from the retirement of employees at the top of the salary scale to make those and other budget initiatives possible.
In the proposed county budget, Whitlow recommended allocating additional funds for expenses under the Children’s Services Act, as costs for services to at-risk youth have been climbing dramatically.
However, if efforts to rein in those costs are successful and that money is not needed, it could be used for an additional salary increase later in the fiscal year, Whitlow said.
Whitlow estimated it would cost an additional $210,000 to provide all county employees with a 3 percent raise. The county has 193 full-time employees whose salaries it funds entirely, plus part-time employees and employees whose salaries are shared with the state.
Gills Creek District Supervisor Bob Camicia said he’d like county staff to try to find that money. But Snow Creek District Supervisor Leland Mitchell questioned whether that was possible with such a tight budget.
Whitlow said similar debates had played out in the county administration building when the budget was being crafted.
But he said it felt irresponsible not to provide additional funds for expenses related to the Children’s Services Act, when costs ran a million dollars over budget in the last fiscal year and the trend seems to be continuing. Still, he said he’d take another look at the budget.
“We will look under rocks everywhere we can,” he said. “I will tell you we’ve already looked under a lot of rocks.”