Southampton’s draft budget: $3.2M shortfall

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors agreed Wednesday that hard decisions await as the county grapples with a potential $3.2 million shortfall in fiscal 2013.
A $54 million draft budget presented by County Administrator Mike Johnson represents a 3.77 percent increase in expenses over last year, while the county is dealing with a 2.49 percent decrease in revenue. Johnson told supervisors that the draft budget is not a proposal or recommendation at this point.
“We’re all sitting here and we all know we’re not going to have a blessing in revenue,” Jerusalem District Supervisor Alan Edwards said. “We all know it’s going to take some tough decisions.”
Among the biggest budget hits is an increase of $828,799, or 42.5 percent, in debt service on the Courtland Wastewater Treatment Plant, Johnson said.
The county will also have to deal with a loss of $155,860, or 15.9 percent, from a revenue-sharing agreement with Franklin due to a decrease in tax revenue from the “golden mile” along Armory Drive.
Johnson discussed with the board increases and decreases in expenses in public safety, the general fund and schools during the budget workshop Wednesday.
Southampton County Public Schools are requesting a $1.4 million increase in local funding next year. This would increase county funding for schools from $8.5 million that was requested last year to $9.9 million this year. The school district’s entire budget is $30.7 million.
Expenses for public safety would increase 3.6 percent, or $224,000, under the draft budget. The bulk of the increase, about $154,000, is tied to increases in Virginia Retirement System contributions required by the state.
In the general fund, the Board of Supervisors and the administrator’s office would take decreases of $11,000 and $773, respectively. The treasurer’s office would have an increase of $48,222 due to bank fees.
Supervisor Glenn Updike told the board it is premature to make any decisions on the budget until state funding for public schools is finalized.
“We can’t start budgeting anything until we know what our revenues are,” he said.
Supervisor Ronnie West agreed, noting that the schools could become “the whipping boy” in the budget process if supervisors make decisions before revenues are finalized.
“This is not going to be a fun process,” said Supervisor Barry Porter. “There’s a $3 million gap. We’ve got to find areas to fill that gap, and the revenues aren’t there.”
The board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, to discuss the budget in the areas of public works, health and welfare, culture, and community development.