Yesterday the BOCS approved the Prince William County 2010 budget of $848.3 million dollars. This action cuts spending by about $194 million dollars and also cuts most tax bills on average over $400. This budget is based on a $1.212 tax rate which is a little over $.24 cents higher than the 2009 budget.
Even though most homeowners get a tax break, the passage of the budget leaves citizens wondering what service they will have for the 2010 fiscal year. The Washington Post quotes Corey Stewart:
“This budget is significantly smaller,” board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) said. “We’ve cut our costs, we’ve made our government more efficient, and by doing so, we are going to be able to reward our constituents with a sizable tax cut. That was my number one goal with this budget.”
This budget postpones capital improvements, freezes PW government workers salaries, forces neighborhood libraries to close one day a week, takes about $4.6 million from the ‘rain day fund,’ and cuts the staffing increases in half for the fire department and the police department.
The Washington Post also reports:
The budget uses $4.6 million from the county’s $26.2 million “rainy day” fund, gives $407.8 million to county schools, forces neighborhood libraries to close on Fridays and eliminates about 140 government positions — most of which are vacant.
The board did take steps, however, to restore funding to the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H and nutrition programs, the Flory Small Business Center and the At-Risk Youth Program’s parenting classes, which were all initially targeted for reductions.
The board also restored almost $162,000 to the Healthy Families program and $40,000 to Spinaweb — an Association for Retarded Citizens of Greater Prince William program that provides employment opportunities for the mentally disabled.
The budget also places nearly $3 million in reserve. Supervisors said they hope to have that money on hand in case federal stimulus funding becomes available and the county is asked to provide matching funds to qualify.
One stimulus grant the county has sought would enable it to move up funding for 25 additional sworn police officers from the fiscal 2012 to the fiscal 2010 budget.
Meanwhile, most of us are wondering exactly what services we will no longer have. We wonder how long it will take for police to respond. How long will it take the fire departments to answer a call? Will the lines for county services take longer than usual? Will people employees leave Prince William County and go work where they are less stressed, and have more colleagues to share the work load.
Somewhere along the line, have we become penny wise and pound foolish? Have we cut things too short? How will all of this budget affect our schools that have not yet set their budgets? Will we lose teachers? Will there be 40 students per classroom?
Time will tell. Right now many of us are holding our breath. How much can a suburban county the size of Prince William cut back without disturbing quality of life?
[Ed: Budget Information: The Board of County Supervisors will adopt the County’s FY2010 budget at its meeting on Tuesday, April 28 at 2 p.m. in the Board Chamber of the James J. McCoart Administration Building]