PWC FY14 Budget Raises Taxes, Focuses on Community Safety

| February 13, 2013 | 1 Comment | News

County Executive Melissa Peacor presents FY14 Budget to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors at the McCoart Building on Feb. 12, 2013.

County Executive Melissa Peacor presented her Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) budget to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors Wednesday, demonstrating what a three-four percent tax bill increase would  fund for the county.

The Board is considering an increase to the average tax bill for homeowners ranging between two-four percent on this year’s average tax rate of 1.189 percent. A four percent increase would amount to a rate of $ 1.201 for $100 of assessed value.

Peacor’s recommendation is a four percent increase. She said priorities could still be met with only a three percent increase; however, it would leave fewer additional funds, providing less leeway for the Board. Anything lower than three percent would not meet all needs.

The Board of County Supervisors gives priority to average tax bill over tax rate, since tax rates will vary according to assessments. As assessments are up this year, the county will be able to bring in more money than they had in recession times. However they are also playing catch up on funding unmet needs from those times.

According to Peacor’s FY14 Budget, safety and fire and rescue are the chief concerns for the Board this year.

The proposed budget would add 15 resource officers to be placed in middle schools as a response to the incident in Newtown, Conn. at a cost of nearly $2.6 million. Ten additional officers will also be added to the force to keep up with the growing population in 2014 at a cost of $1.5 million. According to the five-year plan, 15 more could be added from 2016-18.

Prior to the recession, Peacor said the county funded an additional 25 officers per year. Throughout the five-year plan, the county would move closer to that goal of two officers for every thousand citizens, but would not achieve it.

The police department will add a second tactical defense unit, employing 14 officers. This will cost more than $2.8 million.

The county also plan also will increase police visibility in mid-county.

Fire and Rescue would see an increase of 12 24-hour staffers in the eastern end of the county to work the ladder trucks at a cost of $1.3 million. Kevin McGee, Chief of the Fire and Rescue department said it was necessary to improve quality of service. Twelve more staffers will be added to the medical unit at $650K. They are using Fire & Rescue levy funds for this project.

The county is accessing medical insurance funds made available when people call for an EMT, but will not bill the individuals the difference in cost of service. This equates to about $5 million in revenue or 5 percent of the Fire & Rescue budget.

A new Bacon Race Fire Station is being proposed along the Prince William Parkway and Davis Ford Road. Renovations to existing Fire and Rescue locations in Coles District, Nokesville and Gainesville are also included in the budget. The total cost of these projects is $24.9 million.

These improvements will help Prince William Fire and Rescue respond in areas north and east of Manassas where they currently have to rely on the assistance of other jurisdictions. It would also improve response times.

The total cost for Fire and Rescue in 2014 will be $96 million.

The adult detention center will see the addition of 200 beds, but further improvements will be put on hold until a community corrections study is conducted. This is also required by the state so that the county qualifies for  funds. The state further mandates the county not delay beyond three years. The 200-bed expansion will cost $16.5 million, and Peacor said extending jails is a by-product of population growth.

Elementary school fields will be improved in the coming years according to the five-year plan, and schools will open up fields for use by youth sports leagues. There will be no savings to school funds, however, because the county previously had an arrangement on sharing responsibility for maintenance of fields.

Basketball courts and gymnasiums are not included in the inclusion of fields, but that is something Peacor said she can talk to the Prince William Schools about to meet the need for more basketball practices and games.

New parks are being included in the five-year plan, including the soccer fields at Rollins Ford in Bristow, but it is mainly funded through proffers. As new parks and trails have been created in past years, funding is required to maintain them.

Tourism has been bringing in more revenue through a tax on hotel guests within the county, so that industry has become mainly self-sustaining allowing for improvements in historic parks and other functions of Discover Prince William.

Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services requires the addition of two new staff members to keep up with a sharp rise in demand. A representative from CPS said that hiring of new employees in 2011 has allowed the organization to keep up with more calls, and thus their caseloads have increased dramatically.

Replacement of voter technology could prove expensive for the county, since the state requires that jurisdictions move away from touch-screen technology, which was until now the newest technology in voting. This would cost $1.5 million over three years, even though we spent $500,000 in past years on touch-screen systems.

County employees will receive annual raises that alternate between merit and cost of living increases.

Concerns about the budget include the likelihood that Governor McDonnell will take away $6 million in cost of competing funds that go towards the school budget. Class sizes are also the highest in the state.

Supervisor Frank Principi-D of Woodbridge suggested the county might want to improve funding towards mental health services in light of national tragedies.

The Board of County Supervisors will advertise their proposed tax rate next week and then undergo discussions.

Melissa Peacor began her presentation remarking on the overall impressive recovery Prince William County has made since the recession, and how it is the objective of the Board to make Prince William a desirable community for people, families and businesses, especially businesses that bring high-paying jobs to the county.

The success of Prince William demonstrated by its growth, however, also poses challenges towards funding for public safety, schools, transportation and human resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. OldBean says:

    Sheeeesh….let’s tighten our belts even more. Can’t catch a break from the wolves at the County Executive’s office. MUST……TAKE…..MORE…..FROM…..CITIZENS…..

    Back off already. We’re still in a crap economy Melissa, in case you didn’t know it. Taking more from your residents will NOT do anything to help our economy.

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