By Ed McMinn, News Messenger Editor
Montgomery County administrator F. Craig Meadows presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2023-24 Montgomery County budget Monday evening at the regular meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors.
The proposed budget outlines the county’s fiscal plan of operation for the year and was developed by the county’s leadership team to meet the county’s current and future needs. The proposed budget for all funds if $239.9 million, an increase of 19.1 million or 8.7 percent over the current fiscal year. As proposed, the budget consists of $102 million provided from federal, state, and other designated funds with the remaining funds of $137.9 million representing county dollars that are not designated for a specific purpose.
The budget as presented by county administrator Meadows included $136.1 million in the operating fund for Montgomery County Public Schools, an increase of eight percent from the current year’s budget of $9.7 million. The school system requested $6.1 million in additional county funds to address shortfalls in their proposed budget. As the county administrator pointed out, $1.3 million of the requested $6.1 million resulted from a calculation error by the State Department of Education.
“Removing this calculation error, MCPS’ request would be $4.8 million, and my recommendation of $4 million would address 83% of the schools’ request,” Meadows said.
The budget proposal also includes a 5% salary increase for teachers that is included in the governor’s proposed budget. Meadows noted that the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate have proposed an additional two percent salary increase for a total increase of seven percent.
The breakdown of the sources for the budget’s $239.9 million includes 42.5 percent from designated dollars, 35.7 percent from real estate, 8.5 percent from personal property, 5.4 percent from sales tax, and 3.1 percent from other.
The breakdown of where the money goes includes 59.9 percent for school funds, 8.6 percent for schools’ debt service, 2.1 percent for county debt service, and 27.6 percent for the general fund.
Meadows recommended that set-asides for future capital for the county (currently 1.5 cents for fire and rescue,1 cent for capital property, and 2.5 cents for the school system) be reduced by a half-penny to two cents each due to the “significant” increase in the value of one cent of the real estate tax rate.
“To ensure that the county remains steadfast in funding projects that focus on the future,” the county administrator also recommended that $2.4 million be allocated to the school capital fund, for school capital projects, $1.8 million be allocated to the fire and rescue capital fund for fire and rescue equipment, and $1.9 million be allocated fto the county capital fund for capital and maintenance projects.
The money earmarked for the county capital fund includes money for the following projects:
$425,000 for the Auburn Park project. The grading is now complete, so construction of the new park in Riner can move forward.
$210,000 for information technology infrastructure projects to address the county’s technology needs.
$587,716, which enables $100,000 to be set aside for future valley to valley trail projects, thus providing $487,716 each year for other future county capital projects, and
$750,000 for county capital maintenance projects, which allows for proactive preventive maintenance and for handling large-scale building repairs and/or replacements.
Meadows recommended funding $500,000 for New River Community College’s Access to Community College Education (ACCE) program. The administrator said the ACCE program “allows Montgomery County high school graduates to continue tuition-free education at NRCC with their commitment to provide service hours to the community in return.
“During this year’s budget process,” Meadows said, “I have been blessed to have the assistance of Angie Hill, Brad St. Clair, Marc Magruder, Paul Kaiser, Jeff Raines, Susan Dickerson, Jennifer Harris, and Derley Aguilar in preparing, refining, and presenting this budget information to you.
“The proposed FY 2023-24 budget provides funding to address our core local government responsibilities, as well as funding for areas that must be addressed as part of our service to a growing community.”
The Christiansburg Town Council previously voted to remove Town police officers from MCPS facilities within Christiansburg’s corporate limits effective July 1, 2023. In the wake of that decision, Meadows included $673,605 funding in the budget “for five additional School Resource Officers (SROs) to be managed by the county sheriff and placed in the MCPS facilities as determined by the sheriff and MCPS administration.”
Meadows also included an additional $333,910 in the sheriff’s office budget for “an annual contract for body cameras, increased cost of fuel, and an increase in motor vehicle purchase costs. The proposed budget also includes funding in the amount of $182,752 for the creation of a Community Resource Officer (CRO) program, to be housed at the County Government Center. The CRO will be a liaison for the sheriff’s office and will be available to meet with citizens to discuss any concerns related to community public safety.”
In the wake of what the county administrator referred to as “Eastern Montgomery’s significant decline in volunteer rescue service,” Meadows’ proposed budget also includes $1,358,681 to provide eight additional emergency service technicians, four field supervisors, and funding for additional overtime and operating expenses. . . . The purpose of the funding,” Meadows said,” is to supplement our volunteers’ efforts in providing the highest level of support for our citizens.”
The administrator also recommended the addition of four new positions in the general services, planning and GIS, and parks and recreation departments. “A part-time, non-classified position at the Animal Care and Adoption Center is also recommended to become full-time.”
Meadows told the board, “A budget work session is scheduled for Monday, March 6, for the board to establish the advertised tax rate and advertised budget, in order to meet the required deadlines. The required public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rate are scheduled for a special Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, April 13, at 6 p.m.”
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