Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R at-large, wants to trim slightly more than a penny off the proposed real estate tax rate and freeze phone fees for 911 service.
During a budget mark-up session Tuesday, Connaughton suggested slicing an extra 1.2 cents from the real estate tax rate to drop it from 92.2 to 91 cents per $100 of assessed value.
In addition, Connaughton said he wants to keep the 911 fee on landlines at $1.75, instead of raising it to $3.00 as proposed by county staff.
Connaughton’s proposals came one week before supervisors will take a final vote on the county’s fiscal 2006 budget.
In February, County Executive Craig Gerhart proposed a fiscal 2006 budget that dropped the real estate tax rate from $1.07 to 92.2 cents. Connaughton would make up for his extra 1.2-cent rate cut with $5 million from an anticipated fiscal 2005 surplus of $15 million.
In Connaughton’s proposal, $4 million of the surplus would pad the county’s “rainy day” fund; $500,000 would be left for unallocated projects and the remainder would be split with the Prince William County Public Schools which have a revenue sharing agreement with the county.
In addition to the tax rate cuts, Connaughton presented his plan for divvying up $1.1 million to various community organizations. All together, these groups had requested $1.9 million not included in the fiscal 2006 budget proposal.
Connaughton’s ideas for funding community organizations drew some harsh criticism and were the subject of an extended debate Tuesday.
Supervisor Corey A. Stewart, R-Occoquan, pressed Connaughton to justify each request, a suggestion that Connaughton turned right back around to Stewart.
“Tell us which ones you have problems with,” Connaughton said to Stewart.
For the next hour, Stewart did just that, questioning a raft of spending requests from non-profit groups, including Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, ENS Foundation of America, the National Museum of Americans at War, Stafford Regional Airport and Belmont Bay Science Museum.
Stewart made one motion — backed only by Supervisor John T. Stirrup, R-Gainesville — to suggest eliminating $450,000 to help pay for a community health center.
Stewart and Stirrup were also the only backers of a failed directive to ask county staff to find a way to cut another 0.8 cents from the real estate tax rate. Their proposal would have further dropped the real estate tax rate from 91 cents to 90.2 cents per $100 of assessed value.
After all the proposals for the budget cuts failed, Stirrup requested an extra $759,000 to pay for county staff to operate a heavy rescue unit in Gainesville.
Stirrup described the unit as “an absolutely huge toolbox” that fire and rescue personnel could use to perform all kinds of rescues.
Connaughton told Stirrup that his request would be considered when supervisors vote to approve a final budget April 19.