Local government works with the General Assembly to undertake public safety—including police and fire and rescue departments—education, courts and jails, public transportation, public works—such as water—planning and zoning, economic development and parks and recreation. And the government has to pay for this with your tax dollars. How it spends the rest is somewhat discretionary.
At the March 5 worksession Interim County Administrator Brenda Garton is expected to present the board of supervisors with a balanced budget. What that looks like and whether it includes any change to the county’s tax rates remains to be seen.
Here is what we know so far:
• The budget for fiscal year 2019 was $63.6 million and roughly two-thirds went to the school division to help cover its $40.1 million budget—with local dollars at about $17 million. Funding does come from state and federal governments; however one function of government is implementing and collecting taxes. The last tax increase was 2 ½ cents in 2016. The current tax rates in Greene County are 77 ½ cents per $100 for real estate and $5 per $100 for personal property. There is also a 4 percent meals tax and a 5 percent lodging tax. Business property tax is $5 per $100 and there’s also a machinery and tools tax of $2.50 per $100.
• The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is reportedly asking for five new deputies.
• The Greene County School Board approved a budget that asks for an additional $800,000 to help fund a 5 percent pay raise for its staff.
• The Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney, who lowered his budget in the previous year, is coming back to the table asking for additional funds for an assistant commonwealth attorney because it’s required in the recent General Assembly’s budget. The new position is required in localities that use body cameras, said Matthew Hardin, Greene County commonwealth’s attorney.
• Last week, the county told the community it is planning to close the after-school and summer child care programs that have been subsidized by taxpayers for many years under the Greene County Transit program. This has many parents concerned about child care while they work, which is completely understandable.
• Greene County went through another property reassessment late last year and we don’t know how those figures will affect the budget.
Greene County is changing and growing, thus services must follow to meet those needs, and money generated to pay for them. We hope everyone will watch the budget closely to be sure their voices are being heard as the county determines the budget and tax rates throughout March.
The county knows many of its fixed costs. It’s up to us to prioritize where it spends the balance of our tax dollars.