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Officials: Budget impasse is felt locally
Monday, March 17, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
An impasse over the state budget for fiscal 2014-15 is having some local impact.
“This makes it very difficult for us to develop a budget when we do not have adequate information as to what revenues will be coming from the state,” Deputy Henry County Administrator Dale Wagoner said days after state legislators left Richmond without approving a budget.
The heart of the impasse is the proposed expansion of Medicaid. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, wants to expand the program, and he has said he will veto a budget that does not include it. House Republicans, however, say the budget and Medicaid expansion should be considered separately.
Legislators will return to Richmond on March 24 to try and resolve the matters.
Wagoner said without knowing how much revenue will come from the state, Henry County’s budget will be built “around our best guesses, and the realization is if something changes, we will have to make adjustments.”
In developing the county’s budget, Wagoner said that he and County Administrator Tim Hall “have met with each department manager individually and went over every single line item” in their respective budget proposals.
“We have reviewed and developed some anticipation of our revenue stream and we are waiting on some pieces of state revenue,” Wagoner said. “We are required to have a budget by July 1” or local government cannot function.
Several years ago, Wagoner said he thought that state legislators went “all the way up to the June 30” deadline before approving a budget.
He hopes that is not the case this year. However, “the one thing about the current budget is it seems that Medicaid expansion is the largest” hang-up. “If all the other pieces stay the same, we will have pretty good data to go by” in setting the local budget, Wagoner said.
Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said his timeline remains intact to present a budget to city council the first week in April.
“According to information we received earlier this year, the state has indicated there could be changes in some funding. For instance, the information we have gotten indicated there could be additional 599 funding,” Towarnicki said of funds that are earmarked for police departments.
So far, he said he has been unable to confirm that is accurate or how much of an increase to expect.
In lieu of that, “unfortunately, we will have to make some assumptions. In all likelihood, we will assume level funding” — or the same amount as received last fiscal year.
“If changes are made, then we would have to make those changes and adjustments as we work through the budget process,” Towarnicki said.
If city officials can get accurate information on the amount of state revenue in advance of completing the budget, Towarnicki said “that’s fine. It will help our budget and make it more accurate. If not, we will just assume level funding” and make adjustments as needed.