IOW feels budget crunch

Published 8:59 am Saturday, April 18, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—Citizens got an early look at Isle of Wight County’s proposed fiscal 2009 budget during the Board of Supervisors’ monthly meeting on Thursday.

County Finance Director Liesl DeVary presented the board with an overview of how expenditures will be funded. The county’s balanced budget totals more than $104 million and includes cuts across county departments. The majority of the revenue (44 percent) will come from the county, 38 percent from the state, six percent from federal sources and nine percent from debt restructuring.

Isle of Wight County Schools are projected to take 60 percent of the overall budget with $61.7 million proposed for fiscal 2010, but it is still a hit of a nearly 5 percent cut from the schools’ fiscal 2009 funds.

Revenue sources for the county are on the decline, said DeVary. Personal property revenue is down 20 percent — about $1.5 million — since fiscal 2008, and interest earnings have decreased $1 million due to the economic downturn.

To fill the gaps in the county’s operating needs, the proposed budget calls for digging into about $866,000 from “rainy day funds” and $965,000 from Virginia Department of Transportation reserve funds.

Expenditures have increased overall by $4.4 million due to ongoing capital projects and debt service, an increase in costs of health care and increased tipping fees from the Southeastern Public Service Authority debts.

The budget does not provide for merit or cost of living increases for staff, said DeVary. The county is also proposing to reduce spending in areas including travel, training, the county’s quarterly newsletter, parks and recreation maintenance and operating hours of the county’s eight Convenience Centers.

Large-scale proposed capital projects such as the Windsor Intermodal Park are still scheduled for funding. The budgets for social services, comprehensive services and Section 8 will all take hits under the proposed budget.

A public hearing to discuss the county’s proposed operating budget and the school board budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 30. The board will vote on the budget at its regular meeting on May 7.

The board continued discussions related to recent proposals by the Virginia Department of Transportation to reduce the Jamestown-Surry ferry service. In March, the board had voted to communicate with the Surry county administrator its support of measures to maintain ferry service at current levels.

“Seventy percent of our tourism comes across that ferry,” emphasized Supervisor Stan Clark. The board plans to discuss the ferry service situation with U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes in early May.