Dozens of people from Albemarle County packed Monday night’s first public hearing on the budget.
While tax hikes and state mandates are on the table, the funding for schools took the spotlight. The majority of people who spoke at the hearing asked the Board of Supervisors to fully fund the schools, defending the superintendent’s $164 million budget.
One by one dozens of parents, teachers and administrators asked the board to help the schools bridge a major gap.
"I hope you will support the school budget and the impact that it has on all learners,” said Lisa Jones, principal of Cale Elementary School.
Schools are facing a nearly $7 million budget shortfall. The county's proposed $349 million budget comes with a real estate tax increase of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed value to help the schools out and cover state mandates.
The tax hike would be the first in five years, and some aren't happy about it.
"Please look at all budget items very carefully. Do not raise the rate,” said Charlotte Hogue, who spoke out at the hearing.
Robert Hogue, too, asked the board to look at other options.
“I ask you to make cuts to county spending and to the school budget. Some of us receive very little in return for the taxes we pay. Again, I ask you not to raise the tax rate,” he said.
The extra tax dollars would help schools cover the increase in Virginia Retirement System mandates and pay for additional staffing, but schools would still be left with a $6 million gap in the budget. And even those who support the tax increase for the sake of the schools say it's not the best solution.
"I think that raising taxes is a short-term solution to a long-term problem,” said Maureen Graham.
Others want to see the board help the schools even more.
"I think we need to look at ways to increase revenue and I frankly think that we should be raising the taxes well more than the 1.7 cents,” said Laura Steinberg.
There will be a work session focusing on the schools’ part of the budget next Monday. The board will also announce the advertised tax rate that day.
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