Despite delays in decision making caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and uncertainty as to the full brunt of its economic impact, the Appomattox Board of Supervisors voted to advertise its $41.9 million fiscal year 2021 budget at its Monday night meeting.
The proposed budget includes a cut to school funding, as well as a 5% raise for Sheriff’s Office deputies earning less than $40,000 annually.
During board work sessions, school funding dominated conversation.
Rather than level funding the schools the roughly $5.96 million allocated last year, supervisors voted to fund only the state required local match at about $5.56 million, a reduction of almost $400,000.
County Administrator Susan Adams said the local funding still includes money for all state programs that require a local match. Though they are proposing to fund less this year, Adams said in prior years the county had gone “above and beyond” the required local share.
“We don’t have much surplus, so we have to be very careful in our expenses,” Piney Mountain District Supervisor Watkins Abbitt said of this year’s budget.
Courthouse District Supervisor Samuel Carter agreed, saying it was prudent to level funding wherever possible.
“Look at the state of the economy, it’s just unreal,” Carter said.
Initially the budget included no raises, despite an impassioned presentation given by Appomattox County Sheriff Donald Simpson in February, before the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic was realized.
Simpson had requested a significant increase to deputy starting salary, hoping to narrow the gap between Appomattox and other surrounding counties, as well as raises for all existing deputies.
Simpson said this change was necessary for Appomattox County to stay competitive with surrounding counties, and hire and retain quality deputies.
He spoke before the board again in a work session last week, and said he understands how differently matters look now, but that he would appreciate whatever additional funding could be included to help close the gap.
Appomattox River District Supervisor William Hogan said salary increases for deputies has been a priority for a long time, and he still would like to make strides forward this year, even if they aren’t as significant as the original request.
“I would still like to do that, even if we don’t give general raises across the board … it’s vital that the jobs these people do, and the amount of money they do it for is kind of pitiful,” Hogan said.
The board unanimously voted to give deputies currently making less than $40,000 a 5% raise.
These salaries currently range from $34,118 to $39,698. The proposed raises will cost the county about $30,000 and affect 14 deputies.
The board also indicated it would like to return to the conversation in January to consider raises for the other deputies, depending on the status of county revenues. Hogan added this could be a two-part process, with another 3% raise anticipated next year, with the goal of getting all salaries above $37,000.
Also at its Monday night meeting, supervisors voted to defer penalties and interest on local taxes until Aug. 5. A one-time adjustment, it will have no affect on future tax due dates.
The board will hold a public hearing for the proposed budget June 15.
Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556.