Only a small percentage of Orange County property owners are likely to see their tax bills rise in the proposed 2021-22 county budget.
In his budget presentation to the Orange County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday, county administrator Ted Voorhees proposed maintaining current real estate and personal property tax rates—with one small exception.
In the last fiscal year, the board of supervisors created a countywide new fire and emergency services district levy that would allocate $0.11 of the $0.72 real estate tax rate to offset rising public safety costs. The balance of the real estate tax rate ($0.61) would be applied to fund other county services. In an administrative oversight, the fire and EMS district levy was not applied to mobile homes, which are taxed at the same rate as other real estate. The proposed 2021-22 budget would tax mobile homes at the same $0.72 rate, rather than the $0.61 rate from a year ago. Voorhees said the change amounts to approximately $4,030.
Otherwise, taxes are expected to remain at their current rates.
The county administrator reported county tax revenue had increased across the board, with an additional $700,000 for the general fund and more than $180,000 in the fire and EMS fund.
In a breakdown of revenue sources, Voorhees said 39% comes from property taxes and 36% from the state. Other local revenue accounts for 13% of budget funding. Federal funds represent 7%.
The consolidated budget Voorhees presented last week totaled $114.8 million, down $9.4 million from the $124.2 million adopted 2021 budget. That decrease largely can be attributed to financing for major capital projects initiated last year, including landfill expansion, renovating the Blue Bell building as a career and technical education space and a Gordon-Barbour Elementary School addition and renovation.
However, when $7.1 million in anticipated federal COVID-19 response funds are included, the proposed consolidated budget increases to $122 million ($2.2 million from the current fiscal year’s adopted budget).
In the proposed budget, the general fund increases from $23.8 million to $25.3 million, with school operating funds increasing by nearly $2.4 million to $55 million.
School spending accounts for 54% of the budget, with the general fund comprising 22%.
Within the general fund, $8.2 million is budgeted for public safety, $4.7 million for health and welfare, $4.3 for general government administration, $2.3 million for judicial administration, $1.7 million for community development, $1.6 million for public works and $1.5 million for parks, recreation and culture. A separate $7.1 million (funded by the fire and EMS district levy) is budgeted for those emergency services.
Voorhees said the proposed budget fully incorporates expenditures associated with the new public safety facility and realigns operational expenditures with the completion of other capital projects, including the radio communications system and emergency communications center modernization.
The proposed budget also would reestablish a more robust planning and development services function and elevate the county’s human resources function to include professional development and enhance employee engagement.
The county administrator said the budget leverages maximum state funding for wage adjustments for school and state-supported positions to maintain competitiveness in the regional labor market.
The board will conduct a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rates Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m. Citizens are invited to attend the hearing or submit written comments to chief deputy clerk Alyson Simpson, P. O. Box 111, Orange, Virginia 22960 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments must be received by noon on April 13, to be considered.
The meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s YouTube channel for remote viewing: https://www.youtube.com/c/OrangeCountyVirginia. Related documents may be examined during regular business hours Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the county administration office at 112 West Main Street, Orange. Materials may also be viewed on the County website at orangecountyva.gov.