Ashland Town Council approves $12.4M town budget

Ashland Town Council voted Tuesday night in favor of a combined $12.4 million budget plan that technically doesn’t raise taxes but borrows heavily from the town’s savings account to balance rising expenditures and plateauing revenue streams.

Though council members voted to hold the line on all town tax levies, property owners in Ashland will likely pay slightly more due to an overall increase in the assessed value of real estate. In late May, council held a public hearing on the increase and opted to keep its rate of 9 cents per $100 assessed value in place to help fund town services.

There was no discussion on the budget during Tuesday’s brief meeting. During the public hearing in May, Town Manager Charles Hartgrove outlined the spending plan, which he called a stop-gap measure. Initially, there was a $1.7 million difference between the requested budget and forecast revenues, the result of a rising list of bricks and mortar projects and flat revenues.

Overall, the budget consists of $8.3 million of operating costs along with nearly $4.1 million of capital projects.

To balance the budget, the town borrowed heavily from its savings account to the tune of $768,000 and also trimmed back the requested departmental budget.

Hartgrove urged council to begin planning long-term on how to adequately fund future budgets, a process expected to begin in the fall.

Though there was no talk on the local budget measure, officials did address the funding stalemate in Richmond, which if not remedied, could impact the town.

Mayor Faye Prichard, a member of the Virginia Municipal League’s executive committee, said the VML had decided to appeal publicly for the General Assembly to find common ground and approve a state budget.

“Small towns are not hit nearly as bad as cities and counties but even we will be hurt by the state’s inability to come together and do their job,” she said.

Hartgrove said town staff has been following the inaction in Richmond fairly closely. State funds help cover the cost of road maintenance in Ashland, a concern with a number of ongoing projects and more in the pipeline for next year. The town also receives state 599 funds for law enforcement and gets a portion of sales tax collected here back from the state based on the town’s population.

But Hartgrove said the state stalemate has farther-reaching impacts as well.

“All of our citizens in the town are served by Hanover County, and obviously that’s a major concern with social services, schools, sheriff’s department, all the other positions that are funded by the state compensation board, so I just want our citizens at home to remember that this does affect you directly if something does not happen between now and July 1,” Hartgrove said.

Prichard added there is no guarantee that teachers will be paid their portion of state funds and the stalemate could also impact how local courts operate.

“Please don’t think that this doesn’t have immediate ramifications,” she said.

Posted on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 11:09 am