Advocacy Needed for County Budget Priorities

February 8, 2022

Budget proposals are being considered by the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee; both are scheduled to report their respective budgets on Sunday, February 20.  Now is the time to advocate for county priorities!

Please thank the patrons of these amendments and encourage your legislators to support these proposals, particularly if your General Assembly members serve on the House Appropriations Committee or the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Instructional aides: Item 137 #17h (Plum)/Item 137 #12s (McClellan) provide $160.2 million General Funds (GF) in FY 2023 and $167.4 million GF in FY 2024 for the state’s share of funding for instructional aides based on the ratio of total kindergarten through grade seven instructional aides to total kindergarten through grade seven teachers. Currently, instructional aides are only funded for kindergarten and special education.  Item 137 #18h (Keam) is intended to be the same.

KEY POINTS

  • Teacher aides play important roles in supporting teachers in the classroom by providing extra help to students one-on-one or in small groups, assisting teachers with tracking assignments and attendance, or providing additional assistance in specific areas of a school, such as a computer lab.
  • Currently, only a small number (2,800) of kindergarten and special education teacher aides are covered under the Standards of Quality (SOQs). Meanwhile, school divisions employ more than 21,000 teacher aides.  This amendment is intended to provide additional state support for positions that are currently funded only with local dollars.

Flexibility in teacher compensation increase:  Item 137 #10h (Watts), Item 137 #2s (Marsden), and Item 137 #8s (Ebbin) remove the requirement in the introduced budget for school divisions to provide at least an average 2.5 percent salary increase in each year of the biennium in order to access the state share of the 5 percent compensation supplement that is proposed for each year of the biennium.

KEY POINTS

  • Due to the large number of locally-funded positions in school divisions that are not recognized by the Standards of Quality, localities fund an estimated 56 percent of salary increases.
  • This amendment would allow school divisions to provide the local share of up to a 5 percent salary increase in each year of the biennium without having to meet a minimum threshold to access the state share.

Recordation tax distribution to localitiesItem 266 #1h (Durant) eliminates budget language that directs $20 million each year in recordation tax revenue to the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Fund and instead provides $20 million in general fund appropriations each year for deposit to the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Fund.    This amendment is meant to coincide with HB 978 and SB 363/SB 512.

KEY POINTS

  • This amendment would reverse the 2020 General Assembly’s action to dedicate $20 million in state recordation tax revenue (which would otherwise have been distributed to localities outside of Northern Virginia) to Hampton Roads Transit. It would hold harmless funding to Hampton Roads Transit with an appropriation of General Fund dollars.
  • Prior to the 2020 General Assembly session, a portion of recordation tax revenues had been distributed to counties and cities since 1993. Funding was distributed quarterly and could be used for transportation or public education purposes.
  • Restoration of these funds will help localities 1) more effectively respond to the transportation and education needs of their communities, which as a result of COVID-19 are greater than ever, and 2) readdress long-term needs disrupted by the redirection of these revenues and the holes created in their budgets as a result.

Support for local Children’s Services Act programs:  Item 284 #1h (Plum), Item 284 #2h (Plum)/Item 284 #1s (Hanger) and Item 285 #2s (Hanger) provide funding for two proposals from a 2021 report on the implementation of legislation directing the Office of Children’s Services to provide additional oversight of local Children’s Services Act (CSA) programs.  The funding would support four regional consultants at the Office of Children’s Service to provide additional assistance to local CSA programs, as well as additional administrative funds to ensure that each local CSA program receives at least $50,000 per year in administrative funding, including local matching dollars.

KEY POINTS

  • Legislation in 2021 directed the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) to provide additional oversight of local CSA programs. A workgroup convened to consult on OCS’s plan to implement this new authority recommended the addition of the four regional consultants as well as the additional local administrative funding.
  • The regional consultants are intended to provide additional support to local programs, such as training for local coordinators, helping to address regional service delivery gaps, and assisting with the implementation of quality improvement plans.
  • The workgroup also recommended additional administrative funding, noting the program’s complexity and the relatively limited support provided for the program’s administrative infrastructure.
    • State administrative funds provided to local programs have not been increased since FY 2017; the current state appropriation is $2.1 million statewide, which is subject to a local match.
    • Under the Appropriation Act, each locality currently receives the larger of $12,500 or an amount equal to two percent of the total state pool allocation. For FY 2022, 95 localities received a total of less than $20,000 (including the local matching funds), and 114 of 130 local programs received a state and local total of less than $50,000.  The workgroup report notes that in a recent survey, localities reported providing a total of $8.8 million in personnel costs and an additional $1.1 million in non-personnel costs to support their local programs.
    • The amendment would provide state funding sufficient such that all localities would receive at least $50,000 per year in administrative funds (inclusive of the local match).

Deputy sheriffs’ staffing:  Item 72 #2h (Wyatt), Item 72 #4h (LaRock), and Item 72 #1s (Boysko) would provide $11.5 million GF in FY 2023 and $14.4 million GF in FY 2024 to allocate 259 additional deputy positions in FY 2023 and 16 more positions in FY 2024, for a total of 275 positions over the biennium.

KEY POINT

  • State Code requires the Compensation Board to fund one law-enforcement deputy for each 1,500 people in a jurisdiction in which the sheriff bears primary law enforcement responsibilities. This staffing ratio has not been fully funded since FY 2008, leaving localities to step in to fund positions necessary to support the operations of sheriffs’ offices.

Jail per diems:  Item 73 #1h (Brewer), Item 73 #4s (Deeds) and Item 73 #3s (Petersen) would restore the local-responsible per diem rate from $4 to its pre-FY 2011 level of $8.

KEY POINTS

  • Per diem rates have not been adjusted since FY 2011, while the costs of caring for incarcerated individuals have increased. According to the most recent state data, the average daily cost to house a jail inmate is now $100.32 (of which localities contribute $55.30).
  • Virginia localities make a substantial contribution to the housing and care of inmates in local and regional jails. According to the Compensation Board, in FY 2020, localities contributed $605.1 million to local and regional jails and jail farms (including debt service obligations), and an additional $15.6 million to house inmates at other jurisdictions.  The Compensation Board provided funding of $362.1 million, with other state agencies providing an additional $2.6 million, primarily in grant funding.

Related amendment Item 404 #22h (Runion) provides $5 million GF per year for the Department of Corrections to reimburse local and regional jails for the costs of incarcerating state-responsible inmates; this amendment is a placeholder for related legislation that would provide for compensation at a rate of $12 per inmate per day for the first 60 days, at the rate of $40 per inmate per day during the period of more than 60 but not more than 90 days, and for the actual cost of incarceration as calculated in the jail report prepared annually by the Compensation Board for more than 90 days.

Aid to localities with police departments (“HB 599”):  Item 408 #2h (Brewer), Item 408 #1s (Edwards), and Item 408 #2s (Lucas) provide $38.4 million in FY 2022 in HB 599 funding to reflect the general fund revenue growth rate of 14.4 percent in FY 2021 and 4.9 percent in FY 2022, in accordance with statute.  Item 408 #3s (Reeves) would provide $50.5 million GF in FY 2022, $12 million which is to be allocated to local police departments to assist with pay compression, recruitment, and retention of officers.  Item 410 #2h (Brewer), Item 410 #1s (Reeves), Item 410 #2s (Edwards), Item 410 #3s (Lucas), and Item 420 #4s (Newman) all provide $108.8 million over the biennium to reflect GF revenue growth in the previous biennium, as well as the projected GF growth of 4.8 percent in FY 2023 and 4.2 percent in FY 2024.

KEY POINTS

  • The introduced budget level-funds HB 599 appropriations at FY 2020 levels of $191.7 million per year, despite General Fund growth in FY 2021 and FY 2022 and expected growth in the upcoming biennium. If HB 599 appropriations had kept pace with General Fund growth over time, FY 2022 funding would total $359.1 million.
  • Counties that receive HB 599 funding contribute significant local funds to their local police departments. In FY 2022, counties that receive HB 599 funds received $67.9 million from this funding source and contributed $898.1 million in local funds.

Reimbursement for general registrar and electoral board member compensation: Item 90 #1h (Sickles) and Item 90 #1s (Deeds) provide $2.7 million GF each year in additional funding to fully reimburse localities for general registrars’ and electoral board members’ salaries.

KEY POINTS

  • The growing complexity of election administration has required significant investments of local funds. In FY 2020, counties and cities reported spending approximately $57 million on elections administration, of which $10.5 million was provided by the state.
  • Full reimbursement for general registrar and electoral board member compensation was included in the budget approved in March 2020, but this funding was unallotted as a result of the pandemic and not restored in subsequent budgets.

Clarification of public agencies’ ability to offer compensatory time in lieu of paid overtime:  Item 4-14 #1h (Byron) and Item 4-14 #1s (Stuart) incorporate language from the caboose into the biennium budget that clarifies that public agencies can continue to offer compensatory time in lieu of wages for overtime pay; this language would expire when a permanent statutory clarification took effect.

KEY POINTS

  • This language addresses an issue that arose last year after the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry interpreted the 2021 Virginia Overtime Wage Act to eliminate public employers’ long-standing ability to offer compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay to employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • To address the major financial and logistical implications of such a significant departure from long-standing practice, language was incorporated into the budget during 2021 Special Session II to clarify that public employers may continue to provide compensatory time. This clarifying language was included in the “caboose” budget for the current biennium.
  • The budget amendment would include the language in the biennium budget (so that the clarification would extend beyond the expiration of the caboose budget on June 30, 2022), with a provision that it would expire upon the effective date of a statutory fix to this issue.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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