AEP taxes allow for 1.5% pay raise now in county budget

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The Board of Supervisors General Fund Budget Committee got some good news when it met Friday afternoon in Fincastle.

The new AEP electrical substation that has been built in the Cloverdale area will generate about $900,000 in tax revenue in the next fiscal year— about $400,000 more than expected.

The supervisors can also expect a bump in personal property taxes from original estimates— about $78,000 more.

Those revenue projections, rollover funds and adjustments in expected expenditures prompted the budget committee that is made up of Supervisors John Williamson III and Jack Leffel to propose providing a pay raise for county employees— in particular as a way to offset challenges with starting pay in the Sheriff’s Department. The discrepancy between the pay scale for deputies and State Police was exacerbated by the General Assembly’s decision to raise state trooper pay by over $7,000 plus give troopers a 3 percent pay raise in the coming fiscal year.

Williamson said a new deputy can be trained by the Sheriff’s Department then go to the State Police with a 25 percent raise.

The General Assembly is providing the state’s share of up to a 2 percent pay raise for state employees and constitutional offices, which includes Sheriff’s Departments.

The budget committee is proposing a 1.3 percent raise that will cost about $230,000.

The county gave 2 percent raises effective in the current fiscal year even after the state reneged on its share of those raises.

The committee also made adjustments to earlier discussions about purchasing new fire apparatus that will allow Fire and EMS Department to do some shifting of trucks between departments. The committee is recommending purchasing two trucks rather than three, and using a lease/purchase agreement to spread the payments over as many as seven years. County Administrator Gary Larrowe assured the committee that two new trucks will put the fire departments in good shape for several years.

The committee also maintained the proposed agriculture development position recommended the last time it met.

The committee also touched on the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Williamson asked the staff to separate the CIP into two parts— a general CIP, and one for the Gateway Crossing Improvement Area in the four designated quadrants around Exit 150.

Assistant County Administrator David Moorman said the proposed improvements in the Gateway Crossing area have a price tag of $80 million. The county is not in a position to make those improvements, but he said if the county has items in its CIP, then a developer can proffer to make improvements as part of a project that might be developed there. Without the items in a CIP, then a developer cannot proffer those improvements as a way to encourage the county to approve a development project.

Those improvements include landscaping, lighting, roads, sidewalks, greenways, etc.

This will give the county a two-part CIP, the regular CIP and a “what if” for Gateway Crossing.

Williamson also asked staff to include a look at Botetourt Center at Greenfield and Greenfield Recreation Area for a site for possible “community space.”

“A big open space with the potential for temporary partitions, a modest stage, a kitchen space like a catering kitchen,” Williamson said.

That look could come as part of a review of the Greenfield master plan. Moorman said there may be areas within the industrial park that aren’t suitable for industry but might accommodate a community building.

Williamson said he’s gotten requests for a large space area where the community can get a couple hundred people together.

It’s possible it could tie in with Greenfield Education and Training Center or perhaps the historic preservation area that’s under consideration.

Williamson asked for a rough location feasibility in FY18 and suggested the staff include funds in the FY19 CIP for preliminary building design for a community building.

The budget committee will present its recommendations to the full board when it meets March 28 at Greenfield. That budget session will be at 6 p.m.

— Ed McCoy

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