Tax Response to COVID-19 - The Board voted unanimously to reduce the real estate property tax rate to $0.97 per $100 assessed value and to maintain the personal property tax rate at $6.46. By reducing the tax rate by six-cents, the Board virtually level-funded the Budget, distinguishing an $18 million difference from the proposed Budget presented in February 2020. This proactive measure was based on the current and future challenges of business shutdowns and employment losses in our community and across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Board voted to lower penalties and interest to zero for overdue personal property taxes and utility payments ushering in helpful solutions for residents hit with hard times.
Completion of a Comprehensive Transportation Study that Led to Voter Approval of a $50 Million Transportation Bond Referendum – The projects were identified through an objective, data-driven Comprehensive Road Study performed by Stafford County that studied roads most in need of improvement throughout the County, over and above the construction already planned by the Virginia Department ofTransportation (VDOT), who is the primary entity responsible for roads construction. Within the Comprehensive Road Study, road evaluations with traffic counts above 1,700 vehicles per day (vpd) were considered as major reconstruction candidates. Whereas, roads with counts under 1,700 vpd were considered for safety and widening improvements. Voters approved a referendum with over 75% support for eight major road projects and 35 safety and widening projects.
Completion and Approval of a New Public Safety Salary Scale – The Board approved a bold and future-proof step plan for public safety in January 2020 aligned with their Strategic Plan three-year priority. The FY21 Budget begins the implementation of this model that addresses shortfalls in staffing and adapts to the quickly-changing, competitive markets within our region.
Capital Projects – Several capital projects were completed, including the construction and design of Fire Station 14, which will be used as a blueprint for future firehouses. Station 14 also multiplies the ability to meet needs along the Garrisonville corridor, both currently and into the future. Significant enhancements were also made to key water and wastewater facility infrastructure by completing critical 3R projects resulting in enhanced water quality and improved customer service.
Education – After providing additional support in FY20 to the schools that funded a 5% pay increase alongside robust funding increases over recent years, the Board of Supervisors is committed to quality education to support our excellent K-12 system and post-education opportunities. Likewise, the school system faces similar challenges due to the growth in our population, especially in our student base. After working hard to identify priorities with the schools, the pandemic created a problematic situation in necessitating the removal of any school increases outside of mandated expenditures. This school budget increase, funded to the tune of $1.69 million, lessened the financial impacts from the pandemic. And through judicious capital discussions, the new high school capital project schedule will move forward as planned.
Employee Class and Compensation Study – The County has worked diligently on ensuring that employees are committed to providing the most efficient and effective service for our community. By conducting a class and compensation study, it was identified in the last budget process that several positions throughout the organization were at the low end of the market with the need to move up to a more competitive level of compensation. The County developed a two-year phased approach for those critical positions. In FY21, the County completes the second phase of that compensation plan, improving organizational excellence.
Broadband Initiatives – The County received an $874,000 Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant to partner with a private fixed wireless provider to provide broadband to Marlborough Point and the Widewater peninsula. As well, the County is pursuing multiple other projects via the CARES Act funding to ensure residents and students can access the internet.