In a forward-looking motion, the Board of Supervisors directed County Administrator Kirby Bowers to put together a budget based on an 89-cent real property tax rate, which is the same rate set during fiscal year 2007 budget discussions this spring.
The direction came as the result of a two-month process that began when Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) first brought up the idea of providing direction to Bowers as he worked on the fiscal year 2008 budget.
"I think it is about time we step up and give direction ahead of time," Staton said at the Sept. 5 meeting.
Staton made a motion at Tuesday's meeting that the budget created at 89 cents be advertised, which would require a public hearing. Any changes to the tax rate of that budget would have to be readvertised with a separate public hearing. In order to avoid being restricted to the 89-cent tax rate, Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) amended the motion to be a direction, giving the board the ability to raise the tax rate if needed.
"I think if we advertise at 89 cents I don't think we could raise it," Clem said. "I thought we were locked in at 89 [cents] or less not 89 [cents] or more."
ONLY SUPERVISOR Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) opposed the direction, stating he believed the board needed more information about the needs of county departments before budget talks can begin.
"Normally the last vote we take in the spring is to set a tax rate," he said. "To set the tax rate in the beginning is backwards, absolutely backwards. We have no idea what the revenue needs are going to be."
Burton suggested directing Bowers to create a budget that would not increase the average homeowner's tax bill more than 10 percent, but his motion died because it did not receive a second.
Supervisors who supported the direction said they thought it was time for the board to take a hard look at prioritizing the budget.
"We are going to have to make some tough decisions," Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said. "Are there going to be some things that don't make the list? Yeah. You betcha. We have to decide what we are going to do and what we are no longer going to do."
Clem said that once the 89-cent budget is presented to the board, Supervisors will have to see what 89 cents really gives the county and work from there.
"We, as the board, are going to have to make a decision of what we think is important enough to raise that 89 cent [tax rate]," he said. "Do I think it is going to stay 89 cents? No. But it is a good place to start."
Bowers said he would like to come back to the board as he meets with various county government departments and gets a clearer picture of what the fiscal year 2008 revenue could be.
"Right now I don't know what 89 cents means," he said.
PULTE HOMES submitted a letter to the Board of Supervisors through its lawyer, Michael Banzhaf, to withdraw its application for Braddock South Village. The board voted unanimously to accept the developer's withdrawal.
Braddock South Village would have rezoned 731 acres and allowed for the development of 1,500 residential houses. Pulte withdrew its application, Banzhaf said, because it could not afford the upfront costs the county wanted to see. Banzhaf said Pulte would have been required to put up around $7.5 million for things like road improvements, but there was no guarantee they would be able to make up that money.
The owners of the parcels in the area in question are eligible to submit new applications up to 12 months after the developer's withdrawal.