Greene Co. Sheriff Speaks Out after 2nd Year of Proposed Budget Cuts
GREENE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Greene County is working to balance a budget that initially projected a funding shortfall of close to $7 million.
Now, several county-funded organizations are facing massive cutbacks and people living in the county could see a real estate tax increase.
On Tuesday, March 12, Brenda Garton, the interim county executive, proposed an updated budget draft which shows higher projected revenue, less allocated funding, and a potential real estate tax increase of 5 cents.
One of the organizations feeling these cutbacks the most is the sheriff's office.
“Well, I’m concerned,” Sheriff Steve Smith said.
Smith is facing budget cuts for the second straight year.
“Last year, they cut $35,000 out of our operating budget,” Smith said. “This year, they’re cutting $52,000.”
That's because Greene County has to close a $6.7 million funding gap in its fiscal year 2020 budget.
“I’ve proposed a balanced budget,” Garton said. “It’s balanced, it’s not pretty, there’s probably not anybody that’s getting funding from the county that’s happy from this budget and I’m really sorry.”
Garton says that in order to decide where to make cutbacks, she prioritized funding line items unfunded in previous years and cutting new items.
“I opened up the printouts for three fiscal years and went through them line by line by line,” Garton said.
But Sheriff Smith says his office has requested funding to support additional deputies for the past several years.
“We didn’t get them this year, so it was really concerning to me,” Smith said. “I know the county is in a hard spot financially-wise, but these are positions that we desperately need.”
He says he needs nine new deputies this year because his office is doing much more than other counties with a lot fewer resources.
“Every county around us is larger than us, they have more officers on the road, and a majority of them answer less calls than we do,” Smith said.
Even with the major cuts, the county still faces a funding gap of $1.1 million.
To close that remaining gap, Garton is recommending the county raise real estate taxes by 5 cents, which is up to 82 cents per every $100 of assessed value.
That’s the highest rate since when it was 84 cents in 2005 and 2006.
“I feel it was the best compromised budget that I could present given the facts of the situation at this time,” Garton said.
The Greene County Board of Supervisors will have the final say over the budget.
The board will hold a budget work session on Thursday, March 14, at 5:30 p.m., and will hold a public hearing on the proposed tax increase on April 23 at 7:30 p.m.