NEW KENT – There's a chance that Colonial Downs will cancel its thoroughbred racing season this year, which in turn will affect the proposed New Kent budget, according to County Administrator Rodney Hathaway.
“We are anticipating a $403,000 loss (from the race track), and that's not including the other businesses in the county,” Hathaway told the Board of Supervisors last Thursday night. ”They will miss out on the revenue of people visiting the restaurants, shopping, and pumping gas.”
Colonial Downs announced last week that it was ceasing negotiations with the Virginia Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which would stop thoroughbred racing at the track and at its Off-Track Betting (OTB) facilities.
In doing so, the thoroughbred season could be canceled.
Currently, Hathaway is proposing a $65.24 million fiscal year (FY) 15 budget, $4.9 million than last year’s approved budget, and a real estate tax drop from 85 to 84 cents per $100 of assessed value. That means that a homeowner with a house valued at $150,000 could pay $15 less than last year.
Hathaway proposed that the county recover the $403,000 loss from Colonial Downs by:
•Eliminating the proposed Community Development Director position ($107,509), which has remained unfilled for two years
•Using projected additional real estate tax revenues based on update assessment totals ($147,818)
•Eliminating the proposed firefighter position ($52,209)
•Partially reducing debt service ($96,664)
Hathaway also proposed other budget options that include the purchase of an $8.4 million new emergency radio system, which would mean an additional $1.34 million expense in FY15. Hathaway explained that in order to make up the difference, the county could explore various cuts, including the proposed firefighter and Community Development Director positions and increasing the real estate tax rate from its current rate of 85 cents to 88 cents ($990,944).
In response to a fiscal analysis performed by the county, public utility water and sewer system rates are proposed to increase six percent, though residents won’t see any increases to connection or availability fees. Residents living in the Bottoms Bridge Service District will see a five-cent ad valorem tax increase.
Ad valorem is the tax to help pay for the cost of installing the Bottoms Bridge water and sewer system.
The increase is the result of a decline in connection fee revenue. The proposed five-cent increase is the first for the western tip of the county and will help meet the debt payments on the 2004 bond for the Bottoms Bridge sewer system.
The county’s proposed FY15 budget also includes the $11.08 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which includes projects such as: $5 million debt from the historic high school renovation, $1.46 million airport taxiway repair (98 percent grant funded),$1 million school projects, $600,000 fire truck, $409,500 vehicle replacement, 100-foot ladder fire truck (95 percent grand funded), etc.
Other budget highlights include: 7.2 percent health insurance increase, 1.19 – 1.32 percent increase in Virginia Retirement System (VRS) group life rates, $389,382 for four new employees (three full-time, one part-time), $482,508 for debt service related to the historic high school renovation project, and a $1.05 million increase in the General Fund.
Hathaway is proposing that New Kent County Public Schools receive $13.1 million in local funding from the county. If approved as presented, the schools will receive a $570,000 increase over last year’s budget.
At $28.55 million, the adopted FY15 school budget is $1.24 million above what was adopted in FY14, with 67.5 percent, or $948,721, going toward instruction.
The Board of Supervisors will discuss the proposed tax rate at its work session on Wednesday, April 23.
A public hearing on the budget will be held May 12.
The proposed county budget can be viewed online at www.co.new-kent.va.us.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.