Supervisors set to advertise budget

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By John Barnhart

Bedford County taxpayers won't be facing a tax increase this year.

The county supervisors held a final budget work session, Monday, before approving the figures that they will advertise for the county's proposed fiscal year 2008-2009 budget. Although daily room rates at the Bedford County Nursing Home will go up by $7 per day, the advertised budget contains no tax increases. A public hearing will be held on Monday, April 7, at the Bedford Science and Technology Center, in Bedford, at 7:30 p.m. This will be followed by a final budget work session on April 8, at the County Administration Building, at 5 p.m.

The budget contains an additional $1.25 million for the school division's operating budget. This amount represents half of the $2.5 million that the county took in due to revenue growth. The amount of money needed for the textbook fund has decreased by $112,000, according to County Administrator Kathleen Guzi, so that amount has been moved to the operating budget. Guzi said that this decrease came because the school division is expecting more from the state for textbooks.

The school maintenance budget is lower this year. That's because the supervisors, last year, appropriated an extra $400,000 to pay for road projects associated with the Jefferson Forest High School renovation. At the time, there was uncertainty about the amount of money the state would provide and the supervisors wanted to make sure that there were no delays due to funding problems. This was intended as a one-time only supplement at the time.

Guzi told the supervisors that the state will provide less money to localities this year. She expects the state to cut the amount, but leave it up to each locality as to how it plans will handle it. She told them that she should have more information about what the state will do when the supervisors have their April 8 budget work session.

When the supervisors voted to advertise this budget, District 4 Supervisor John Sharp cast the lone dissenting vote.

"I just think we are borrowing against next year, " he said, explaining his vote.

Sharp said that, based on the state of the economy, he does not expect to see the revenue growth, next year, that the county experienced this year. There will be less new revenue due to growth and Sharp believes that avoiding a tax increase this year means that the county will have a larger tax increase next year. Sharp felt that it would have been better to have had a one cent increase in the tax rate this year.

"I'm concerned we are going to paint ourselves into a corner," he commented.