Page County will use local dollars to compensate for state revenue shortfall and keep 2% raises

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― The Page County Board of Supervisors and Page County Public Schools will readjust their spending plans after a state revenue shortfall is jeopardizing pay raises that the boards approved months ago.

County and school officials announced last week that they will give the raises without state funding. Both the county and the local school system used state projections when planning their fiscal 2017 budgets, which went into effect on July 1.

Included in the budgets were a 2-percent pay raise for all county and school employees to be paid for in part by the state. Virginia's fiscal 2017 spending plan earmarks money to go toward raises for state employees and educators ― but only if the revenues align with projections.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe's office announced this month that Virginia collected a record $18 billion in revenue in fiscal 2016 ― $266.3 million below the forecast.

Page County had earmarked about $53,000 to go toward its pay raise for employees. Without matching funds from the state, however, the county will spend an additional $62,000, according to Page County Administrator Amity Moler.

The local school system will readjust its budget to cover $157,000 in state funding that had earmarked to go towards its pay increase.

“Due to certain statutory requirements for the local budget process, local governing bodies had to make budgetary decisions in the spring, including decisions on whether to make commitments to employees by incorporating anticipated state dollars for compensation increases into those local budgets,” Executive Director of the the Virginia Association of Counties Dean Lynch said in a July 14 letter to McAuliffe. “Now that these state dollars are likely to be reallocated to mitigate the projected revenue shortfall, localities are placed in the difficult position of having to replace these state funds with local dollars.”

While some school divisions and localities have announced that they will scrap pay raises if state funding falls through, both Page County and the local school system said they will make up the difference.

The local school system, according to Superintendent Donna Whitley-Smith, already signed contracts for the 2016-17 school year based on the pay increases.

Additionally, added Moler, the pay hikes were already reflected in the county's last pay cycle.

“Once the raise has gone into effect, how do you go back and then take that away [from employees]?” said Moler.

Supervisors as well as the school board will need to readjust their approved spending plans in order to accommodate the raises. The Page County Board of Supervisors will likely pull the additional funding from its reserve, said Moler, but supervisors will need to vote on the proposal. The local school system will likely make up the difference by cutting about 25 percent in supplies spending.

Another estimate of the state's general fund revenues is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.

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