Isle of Wight proposes $80M budget

Published 8:23 pm Thursday, April 9, 2020

By Stephen Faleski
Staff writer


Isle of Wight County’s proposed 2020-21 operating budget totals just over $80 million – or roughly $878,000 more than the current year’s budget. Of this increase, however, about $497,000 will be earmarked for “contingency,” meaning it won’t be allocated for any specific purpose.

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That’s because County Administrator Randy Keaton isn’t certain how much of this additional revenue, which he and his staff had forecast prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, will actually materialize. The projected 1.6 percent growth in meals tax revenue is particularly doubtful at present given that restaurants remain restricted to offering takeout and delivery only under Gov. Ralph Northam’s March 30 stay-at-home order.

Also included in the contingency fund is money that had been intended to give all county employees a 2 percent cost of living increase, which is now deferred until such time as the county is able to reassess its financial situation.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected Isle of Wight County and the entire world has caused some dramatic changes in the way I proposed this year’s budget,” Keaton told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Thursday.

“I’ve seen a lot of people categorizing their budgets as ‘fiction’ at this point because it’s unknown how this will be affected,” Keaton added, pointing out that the next fiscal year begins July 1. “If things are relatively back to normal by July 1, we don’t know how long [business] will take to come back.”

Despite the potential for lost revenue, Keaton is still proposing to keep the county’s real estate tax rate at 85 cents per $100, and its personal property tax at its current rate of $4.50 per $100, with no increase in water or sewer rates.

Keaton’s budget also calls for Isle of Wight County Schools to receive the same contribution from local tax dollars as it did last year, rather than the $694,001 increase the school division had requested, and no additional funding for full-time school resource officers at any of the county’s elementary schools. 

Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke Jr., in February, had proposed three options for placing SROs at each of the county’s five elementary schools over a period of one to three years, with the cost to hire all five by September estimated at $391,555.

Keaton added that his proposed budget actually calls for a decrease in funds allocated for debt service, since debt payments peaked this year and are projected to decrease each year after. That is assuming,  he said, no new money is borrowed, and doesn’t factor in plans to build two replacement elementary schools in the county.

Isle of Wight’s public hearing on its budget is scheduled for Thursday, April 23, with a final vote on Thursday, May 14, both starting at 6 p.m. Per the county’s continuity of operations ordinance, which the Board of Supervisors adopted prior to discussing the budget that evening, residents who wish to comment on the budget are encouraged to do so by email rather than in-person. Those who still wish to speak in-person will be asked to wait outside, at least six feet apart from other speakers, and will be invited inside one person at a time to maintain social distancing. The county’s continuity ordinance also allows the board to hold meetings solely by electronic means without the need for a physical quorum during a declared state of emergency, so long as the meeting concerns the emergency or is of such immediate nature as to cause irreparable harm to the county if postponed.