County, schools benefit from unanticipated funds

Patriot logo largeBy MIKE WILLIAMS

The Patriot

Unanticipated revenues from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the cigarette tax are the driving force behind nearly $15 million in budget amendments approved Monday night by the Board of Supervisors.

Whenever budget amendments exceed 1 percent of the total county budget, state law requires the Board of Supervisors to hold a public hearing.

No one spoke during the hearing.

County Finance Director Diane Newby provided the board with an overview of the amendments. She explained that additional ARPA funding had been received by the county for projects in the library and the Calfee Cultural and Community Center, tourism advertising and promotion and municipal utility relief for past due water and sewer customers not served by previous utility relief.

Much of the budget amendments – $6.9 million – include county capital improvement projects already in process, including GIS equipment and ortho mapping, information technology and communication upgrades, vehicles, building and HVAC improvements, road improvements and county parks and recreation improvements.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet told the board budget adjustments are standard with unanticipated revenues.

“We’re fortunate to see unanticipated revenues,” Sweet said, using the cigarette tax revenue as an example.  According to Newby, the county received $307,550 in cigarette tax revenues for the first two quarters of calendar year 2022.

The county had not been able until recently to anticipate how much revenue it would gain through the tax because of processing through the regional partnership the county had entered into to make collection of the tax easier.

While the amount of the tax revenue was previously unknown, its destination wasn’t. Because of an earlier agreement between the Supervisors and School Board, the revenue will go to the school system’s capital improvement fund.

Massie Supervisor Andy McCready asked Newby how much money in carry over funding the school system was able to add to the capital fund. She responded, $116,591.

McCready said that gives the school system a $1.7 million “pot of money” to make improvements and maintenance repairs on schools.

“That is a real success story, that agreement between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board that has survived now approaching ten years,” he said.

The agreement basically states money saved by the school system at the end of the fiscal year will be re-appropriated back to them for use on capital improvement needs.

The carryover funds coupled with the cigarette tax revenue to address some of the building and capital improvement needs of county schools is “a real win for all of us,” McCready stated.

“We ought to be really proud that agreement made many years ago has survived and thrived,” he said.

Following the public hearing, McCready noted the lack of comments must mean “the public is pretty well satisfied with the financial management of the county.”