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Official: Amherst County budgeting 'more normal' in second year of pandemic

Official: Amherst County budgeting 'more normal' in second year of pandemic

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In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amherst County’s financial planning process is getting back to normal in a 2021-22 budget, a $2.9 million increase from the current fiscal year that concludes June 30.

The budget proposal contains no changes to the real estate or personal property tax rates, includes a 4% pay raise for most county employees and a 5% raise for workers in constitutional offices and the department of social services. The budget also level funds the Amherst County Public Schools division at $13.9 million. ACPS employees will receive a 4% raise in the 2021-22 school year.

No one spoke for or against the $47.6 million budget during an April 20 public hearing.

County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the current budget, affected by the onset of the pandemic, pulled $400,000 out of the capital improvement plan. This upcoming fiscal year $1.2 million is included in the CIP and $1.6 million in increased revenues from a variety of sources has contributed to the budget’s overall increase, Rodgers said.

“We have a more normal budget this year,” Rodgers said. “COVID gave us this break in the middle of budgeting to stop and reboot and we did.”

Newly funded line items include a fourth ambulance with a few added staff to work it, $200,000 in increased security at the Amherst courthouse, $200,000 for a master plan for improvements in Madison Heights, fire alarms in the county’s two libraries and $50,000 for a playground at Mill Creek Lake.

“Public safety continues to grow to meet the public demand and improve its processes and response times, equipment and staff in many ways,” Rodgers said.

A cigarette tax of 27 cents per pack takes effect July 1 when the new budget is effective. Rodgers has estimated it could bring $400,000 in revenue, though the figure is not finalized and only a projection. Another question is the legalization of marijuana and whether the county will allow dispensaries for sale of the drug, a topic supervisors have said they want as a referendum to allow residents to give input on what route the county should take.

“That will be a taxable revenue source,” Rodgers said of dispensaries selling weed.

The county is set to receive $6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and $1 million has been committed to the Amherst County Service Authority.

“That can be used for some types of infrastructure projects,” Rodgers said.

The board is set to approve the budget during a special called meeting at 6 p.m. April 28.

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