Spotsylvania budget public hearing showcases mixed views

by | Mar 31, 2024 | ALLFFP, Government, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors heard various opinions at a public hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget Thursday night at Courtland High School. 

Some of the dozens of residents who spoke out at the hearing said the supervisors have been negligent for more than a decade when it comes to funding the county’s school system. 

Others, however, said it is fiscally irresponsible to raise taxes on residents, many of whom are senior citizens and veterans on a fixed income. 

County Administrator Ed Petrovich recommended a real estate tax rate of 75 cents per $100 of assessed value, but the county advertised a rate of 78 cents. The rate cannot be higher than the advertised rate when it is finalized April 9 along with the rest of the county’s $825.1 million budget. 

“With the exception of [supervisors Chris Yakabouski and Deborah Frazier], the boards for the last 10 years have consciously underfunded our schools by millions of dollars every year,” Salem District resident Judith Lawrence said. “They know it, and we all know it.” 

Five school board members – Chair Lorita Daniels, Vice Chair Nicole Cole, and members Megan Jackson, Carol Medawar, and Belen Rodas – addressed the board during the hearing. They reminded the board of the more than $46 million funding gap currently facing the school division, saying it could be closed some with a higher tax rate. 

“It is negligent for Spotsylvania to have a tax rate lower than Caroline County when you have to fund payroll for three times the number of staff, facilities and service needs,” Cole said. “It does not make sense the tax rate you advertised for this size of a county.” 

School officials are concerned about deferred maintenance projects that are catching up with the county. They are also worried they will not have the necessary funds to provide services for special education and English Language Learners. 

Daniels said that part of the budget would go toward funding four teachers at the Spotsylvania Career and Technical Center. She said the school has a long waiting list because of the inability to fund the teachers. 

Daniels said if the supervisors believe those students can help county businesses after graduation with the skills they could develop, then it should provide the necessary funding. 

She added that if the county can provide raises to its employees in the administrative offices, the school division laborers should be afforded the same. 

“The school board understands that we may not get the entire budget,” Daniels said. “But I am asking that you support the schools’ critical operational needs.” 

The supervisors also listened to advocates for community service programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Fredericksburg, Loisann’s Hope House and the Rappahannock United Way make pitches for additional funding. 

While Cole said she welcomes higher taxes if it means better services from the county, many speakers decried potential tax increases. 

Elizabeth Smith, a disabled veteran who lives in the Courtland District, said there are months when she is fortunate to have $20 remaining in her bank account after she pays living expenses. She said the cost-of-living increase seniors received did not keep pace with the actual cost of living. 

“I’ve had to turn off my cable, my home phone and my garbage pickup just to start to make ends meet,” Smith said. “And you want to tax me more? … The majority of Spotsylvania is not rich.” 

Jordan Lynch, chair of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee, said it is a foundational principle of his party to fight tax increases. 

Lynch added that most of the board members are conservative and told them they were elected to uphold those beliefs.  

Lynch said lower taxes encourage entrepreneurship, investment, and job creation. He said low taxes also enable residents to invest their savings back into the local economy and holds government officials accountable for being fiscally responsible. 

“It is vital we do not allow the citizens of this illustrious county to become victims of overstretched budgets, inflated needlessly to accommodate wasteful and nonessential expenses,” Lynch said. “Please do not make the residents of this county suffer.” 


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