A four to five cent real-estate tax increase is needed to meet all requests.
Montgomery County is nearly $3.6 million short of being able to fund all of the new budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, according to a presentation given to the board of supervisors by County Administrator Craig Meadows.
The county’s divisions, departments and Constitutional offices have $3 million in new funding requests, including 15 new full-time equivalent positions that would cost $1 million alone, Meadows told the board Monday night. The positions include four for the Sheriff’s office, three for the treasurer’s office among others.
Raises for county employees took up another $500,000 and additional operations and maintenance costs make up the remaining $1.5 million.
At the supervisors’ Feb. 12 meeting, Superintendent Mark Miear requested an additional $2.3 million in county funds for the school system’s FY 2019 budget.
With the county expecting only $1.7 million in new revenue, the $5.3 million in additional funding requests leaves the locality $3.6 million short of what it needs to fulfill the requests.
Meadows said that the real estate tax rate would need to be increased by 4-5 cents to raise the funds. Each cent generates approximately $775,000 in additional revenue.
The current rate is $0.89 per $100 of assessed value, or simply put, $890 for a $100,000 home. The hypothetical tax increase would cost citizens 40-50$ more for every $100,000 their home is worth.
Supervisors have not commented publicly on whether or not they will support a tax increase, but did not even consider one last year.
School board member Connie Froggatt told the News Messenger recently that the writing is on the wall.
“It’s obvious one of two things are going to happen. Taxes will be increased, or the schools will receive less money,” she said.
Miear told supervisors that the $2.3 million increase was a conservative request and, realistically, the school system actually needed upwards of $7 million, but realized that the larger amount was not anywhere close to available.
The majority of the increase would go toward salary increases for teachers ($1.9 million), with the rest covering the costs of increased bandwidth, health insurance costs, technology costs and maintaining a program that provides many students with Chromebooks.
Miear has said that the funding is vital for getting teachers caught up on the pay scale that is based on years of service, but still wouldn’t make starting salaries competitive with surrounding school systems. The starting wage in the county is $36,503 whereas Salem’s is over $40,000.
Radford City and Pulaski and Floyd counties also have higher starting salaries for beginning teachers of at least $2,000 more, with Giles County being the only surrounding school district to offer a lower starting wage.
It takes Montgomery County teachers between six and ten years to catch up to the surrounding school systems in pay.
Meadows will present the budget to the county Monday night. The county will establish an advertised tax rate and budget on March 19, then hold a public hearing on the proposed tax rate and budget April 5 and finally adopting the tax rate and budget April 16.