(Bland County, Virginia) – The novel Coronavirus, widely referred to as COVID-19, has impacted governmental operations across the United States, Virginia, as well as locally in Bland County. While the Governor of Virginia has issued various executive orders regarding group size and staying at home, those orders do not relieve local governments from responsibility for preparing fiscal budgets and following mandated timelines. For instance, §22.1-93 of the Code of Virginia mandates that the governing body shall prepare and approve an annual budget for education by May 15th. In order to comply with that mandate, the Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed FY21 budget at its regular meeting on April 28th and advise citizens that the proposed budget will likely need additional modification during the fiscal year, which begins July 1st.
Traditionally, the adoption of the annual budget establishes an annual financial plan for the County. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus on federal and state funding, it is unknown at this time what actions federal and state agencies may take in the future. With a large percentage of the proposed county budget, over 60%, associated with state and federal funds, the proposed FY21 budget, once adopted, will most likely need to be modified at a future date as localities are advised of state and federal funding changes.
The proposed FY21 budget does not include any tax or fee increases. It also does not include any salary increases for Constitutional or county employees. The proposed budget is fiscally conservative based on the unknowns of the COVID-19 impacts. The school board request for local funding is fully funded in the proposed budget for FY21, with the major change in the school budget being associated with the modification in the state’s composite index associated with school funding.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, the Composite Index determines a locality’s ratio of local versus state funding to pay education costs associated with the Commonwealth’s Standards of Quality (SOQs). The Composite Index is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay: True value of real property (weighted 50 percent) Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent) Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent) The Composite Index is calculated every two years as part of the state bi-annual budget process. For FY21 and FY22, Bland County’s composite index will be .3380 compared to .3070 in FY19
and FY20. The 3.1% increase in the ratio of local versus state funding will require an increase of $251,577 of local funds in FY21 for public education compared to FY20.
The protections and restrictions issued associated with the COVID-19 are forcing a more flexible approach in the development of the annual budget. As the United States and the Commonwealth begin to emerge from the protections and constraints associated with COVID-19, Bland County will most likely need to make FY21 budgetary modifications as well. If and when those changes are necessary, the citizens of Bland County will be notified in accordance with the Code of Virginia prior to any action taken by the Board of Supervisors.
County officials thank the citizens for their outstanding efforts in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and continue to advise everyone to keep up with information on COVID-19 by visiting Centers for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/ and take the appropriate measures to reduce potential exposure. For questions related to Coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has set up a hotline 877-ASK-VDH3. Please use this number for coronavirus related questions. Residents are also advised to visit the COVID-19 Local Government webpage, at www.blandcountyva.gov, to stay informed regarding any local government operational modifications or schedule changes.