Campbell County’s proposed $77.5 million 2020 fiscal budget makes school funding a priority.
Following a contentious and wide-ranging discussion in the wake of the meals tax victory Tuesday, supervisors also voted last week to hold public hearings on reductions in Business, Professional and Occupational License and personal property tax rates.
The proposed budget includes $850,000 in additional funding for schools on top of last year’s $27.5 million to enable the school division to proceed with the planned 5% salary increase for staff and 4% salary increase for administrators. The $28.3 million proposed for the schools would fully fund the school division’s request.
“It’s all tied directly to compensation,” said Campbell County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Johnson.
The county’s fiscal year 2020 budget also contains $2.2 million for debt service payments to for capital needs of the school division and money for an across-the-board 3% salary increase for all full-time county employees, including sheriff’s deputies and constitutional officers.
The budget is a 5.8% increase over the current year’s $73 million adopted budget. Local revenues are responsible for a majority of this growth, according to County Administrator Frank Rogers. Overall, local revenues increased by 6%, driven primarily by reassessments, which are conducted every four years. County revenue grew by nearly $3.8 million after property values increased.
Keeping the real estate tax at 52 cents per $100 of assessed value will generate an additional $1.2 million annually.
Rustburg Supervisor Jon Hardie motioned to keep real estate taxes level at 52 cents per $100 of assessed value.
“We’re at a lower rate than we were in 1995,” Hardie said. “I don’t think that there are many counties who can probably make that claim.”
Hardie also proposed a 5% reduction to the Business, Professional and Occupational License tax. He first floated the idea by supervisors and staff last year as a way to promote development in the county. The current tax rate for contractors is 16 cents per $100 of gross receipts.
“We have to look at how we assist and support our businesses, and create an appetite for more business,” Hardie said.
Brookneal Supervisor Charlie Watts suggested a 5-cent reduction in the personal property taxes, as well, saying this strategy would “hit both sides” with tax cuts.
Preliminary estimates show these cuts could reduce county revenue by $108,000 and $168,000 for the BPOL tax and personal property tax, respectively, County Administrator Frank Rogers said.
Sunburst Supervisor Bob Good suggested a substitute motion to equalize the real estate tax at 49 cents per $100 assessed value, increase school funding by $425,000 rather than the proposed $850,000 and decrease the proposed school CIP transfer to $1.3 million.
The motion also included the tax reductions proposed in Hardie’s motion.
“School funding, for the years I’ve been on the board, has been the most debated or emotional topic that I’ve seen over the three-plus years,” Good said.
Good suggested the county instead reduce its budgeted increases for the schools as well as eliminate the money included in the CIP and budget to reopen the Hodges Trash Collection Site, which officially closed July 1, 2017 as part of cost-saving measures to balance the fiscal year 2018 budget.
“It’s only in government that you measure success by how much you spend,” Good said.
Spring Hill Supervisor Jim Borland agreed with Good’s motion.
“Just because we have requests, doesn’t mean that we have to meet them all,” Borland said. “We have to be diligent with this.”
He advocated they don’t budget the proposed $5,000 for Red Hill and Avoca historic landmarks in Campbell County.
Borland said, “Those are private, non-profits with a large donor rates, there’s no reason for taxpayers to subsidize them.”
Borland also was in favor of the 49 cent equalization rate for the real estate tax.
“I just want to assert to the board here that if we go down this road of adjusting revenue … I need guidance from you where you need to take it,” Rogers said, citing projects the board had expressed interest in pursuing — like broadband expansion, public safety issues and the school CIP. “In the face of those needs we are reducing our capacity to address them.”
“You can’t keep kicking these projects down the road,” said Board Chairman Eddie Gunter. “You have got to set aside money in order to be in the position so when this does happen, we’ll be able to take care of it. Right now, we can’t do it.”
Gunter echoed the importance of bringing broadband to underserved areas of the county, addressing issues with public safety and funding school maintenance.
Timberlake Supervisor Susan Hogg agreed, voicing her concerns with the aging radio system in Campbell County and parts of Rustburg Middle School being 100 years old.
Ultimately, Hardie’s motion to keep the real estate tax at 52 cents per $100 of assessed value and reduce BPOL and personal property taxes passed, with Good, Borland and Altavista Supervisor Dale Moore opposing.
The public hearing for the advertised budget and tax reductions will be held May 14.
Budget adoption is set for May 21.
“It’s just a matter of what do you want to do, and when do you want to do it, because the money has to be there to make it happen,” Rogers said.