Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has set a real estate tax rate at $0.70 per $100 assessed value and approved the county’s FY 2023-24 budget of $236,357,597, cutting funds to Montgomery County Public Schools by 1.55 million dollars.
These decisions were made following public comment to the board and with much deliberation amongst the supervisors, ending both resolutions in a 4-3 vote.
Prior to the vote, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors heard public comments from citizens with many speaking in support of an initially advertised $0.73 tax rate. Reasons for supporting the higher tax rate included an increasing need to provide staff in schools that are already struggling to fill positions such as bus drivers, custodians, teachers, and special education staff. School resource officer (SRO) positions were also discussed by citizens as the supervisors have approved slashing funds that they typically used for personnel, equipment, uniforms, and vehicles.
A resolution posted on the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors website at www.montva.com details those areas of the county that will receive reduced funding in the new fiscal year. Of those reductions listed, school resource officers (SROs) will see personnel costs reduced by $152,542, SRO uniforms and equipment reduced by $17,250, and a one-time cost for five vehicles for SROs reduced by another $275,000.
Additional funds also reduced in the budget will be from community resource officer personnel, parks and recreation, the ACCE program, the Shawsville Rescue Squad, and the county school’s operating funds by $1.55 million.
The citizens present to speak to the board spoke mostly in support of a tax rate increase to $0.73, providing needed funds to the Montgomery County School system for personnel.
“I have about 50 years in public education and many of those years in school finance,” said Nick Fisher. “After Covid, there is a great need to have counselors with therapeutic skills in the schools.”
Lyndsay Fox, of Blacksburg, shared that several area schools are showing significant learning loss as evident from map testing results, which were presented in person and via email with the board.
“Fully funding our schools is important for everyone in our community,” said Fox. “Cutting funding to MCPS will mean cutting support jobs which would be directly damaging to your constituents as well as to your students.”
Mary Biggs, Sara Bohn, and April DeMotts voted against the $0.70 tax rate, in support of a higher $0.73 tax rate, as well as voting no to the upcoming year’s budget.
“Clearly the communication to the whole board has been overwhelming to keep it at $0.73 as compared to reducing it to $0.70,” Bohn, board member, responded in discussion with the supervisors, referring to the citizen comments and correspondence the board had been receiving.
“I’d say the majority of those emails were from Montgomery County Public School employees and their residents of our district and I’ve heard from my residents as well that do not want the tax to be increased,” Chair Sherri Blevins responded.
“It’s so much easier for some to sit up here and say let’s take it out of the pockets of the taxpayers,” said board member Todd King. “I mean that is who we are supposed to represent.”
In other topics of discussion at the board meeting, public comment was shared in the discussion of the new Riner park that include soccer fields. Bruce Ford, property owner on Riner Road near the new park shared frustration with the board concerning not enough field space for all soccer teams.
“We were checking on the fields and we’d asked about having a regulation size field for the boys, and at the meeting I was told there was one, but when I went to the planning commission to get the drawings, there’s not a field for the boys,” said Ford.
Also, during the meeting, Montgomery County Fire-EMS individuals were recognized by Michael Geary, Emergency Services Coordinator, for Life Saving Awards. The lives of five different community members were saved as a result of the acts of these emergency rescue individuals in providing excellent patient care within minutes of 911 being called: Advanced EMT Sara Guida, Paramedic Jared Sherman, EMT Derek Rogers, Paramedic Robert McGhee, Paramedic Bailey Hager, EMT Cara Marshall, Advanced EMT Logan Underwood and Paramedic Murjan Hammad, and Paramedic Steve Spangler.
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