VACo worked with legislators to introduce a package of budget amendments to address several priority items for local governments. The deadline for member amendments was Friday, January 10. Amendments were posted online on Thursday, January 16, and the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee heard presentations from patrons that afternoon; the House Appropriations Committee is planning to take up amendments this week. The “money committees” are scheduled to report their respective budgets on Sunday, February 16.
VACo appreciates General Assembly members’ efforts to ensure that local government priorities are part of the budget discussions in each chamber. Below is a summary of the amendments introduced at VACo’s request, many of which are joint requests with the Virginia Municipal League.
Hundreds of other amendments were filed, including amendments on shared priorities that were requested by partner organizations, and VACo will be providing an update on these amendments in a future Capitol Contact.
Elimination of K-12 Support Position Cap
Item 136 #1h (Mugler)/Item 136 #1s (Deeds)/Item 136 #2s (Lucas) direct the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Finance, in consultation with the appropriate legislative committee chairs, to develop a plan to eliminate the cap on recognition of support positions in the Standards of Quality and instead revert to recognition of staffing levels in accordance with prevailing local practice. The plan must be submitted before the next legislative session and contain a schedule for full elimination of the cap by FY 2025. VACo has a long-standing position in favor of eliminating the support cap, which places an artificial limitation on the number of support positions the state recognizes; these positions, such as school social workers and IT professionals, play an important role in the operation of a school system.
Removal of Certain K-12 Positions from the Support Position Cap
Item 145 #23h (Davis)/Item 145 #8s (Barker)/Item 145 #10s (Ebbin) remove certain student support positions, such as school psychologists and school social workers, from the support cap and provide the state’s share of funding staffing for these positions based on prevailing local practice, as was done before the imposition of the cap. Item 145 #8h (Heretick)/Item 145 #28h (Hayes)/Item 145 #7s (Spruill)/Item 145 #9s (Boysko) are similar.
Funding for sheriffs’ departments with law enforcement responsibility
Item 68 #3h (LaRock)/Item 68 #4h (Delaney)/Item 68 #3s (Bell) and Item 75 #1s (Bell) provide funding for 237 sheriffs’ deputies in FY 2021 and an additional 21 deputies in FY 2022 in order to meet the statutory staffing ratio of 1 deputy per 1,500 in population in localities in which the sheriff has primary responsibility for law enforcement. This staffing ratio has not been funded since FY 2008.
Jail per diem payments
Item 69 #1h (Hope)/Item 69 #1s (Lucas) provide an 18 percent increase in jail per diem payments to reflect the equivalent increase in inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) since the last time per diem payments were adjusted (in 2010). Additional resources will be necessary for local and regional jails to comply with behavioral health and medical care standards that are currently under review by the Board of Corrections.
Assistance to localities with election security requirements
Item 83 #1h (Sickles) [amendment proposed to the “caboose” FY 2020 budget]/Item 83 #1s (Deeds) [amendment proposed to the “caboose” FY 2020 budget]/Item 86 #6s (Deeds) [amendment proposed to the biennium budget] express the General Assembly’s intention that the most recent allocation of federal funding to Virginia under the Help America Vote Act, which was included in the federal budget agreement signed in December 2019, would be provided to localities to assist them in complying with election security standards adopted as a result of legislation enacted in 2019 or to assist with future security standards adopted by the State Board of Elections.
Eligibility for Virginia Telecommunication Initiative Funding
Item 114 #5h (Bloxom)/Item 114 #1s (Lewis) broaden eligibility for Virginia Telecommunication Initiative funding such that a local government or other public entity could qualify for funding. The amendments also provide for local government participation on the broadband telecommunications advisory group required to be convened by the Chairman of the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board.
Service charges in lieu of taxes for state correctional facilities
Item 402 #6h (Tyler)/Item 402 #26s (Ruff) provide funding for service charges levied in lieu of property taxes on state correctional facilities and eliminate budget language that overrides the existing statutory mandate for the Department of Corrections to pay these service charges.
Aid to Localities with Police Departments
Item 408 #1h (Avoli)/Item 408 #1s (Marsden) provide additional funding for localities with police departments (“HB 599”) in accordance with the statutory requirement for this funding to grow in tandem with expected growth in state General Fund revenues. The introduced budget level-funds HB 599 appropriations despite expected growth in each year of the biennium (4.5 percent in FY 2021 and 3.7 percent in FY 2022).
Local vehicle license fees
Item 438 #2h (McQuinn)/Item 438 #2s (Marsden) provide that localities may continue to levy vehicle license fees up to the maximum state rate allowed as of January 1, 2020, regardless of any legislation enacted by the 2020 General Assembly that may adjust the state fee. The Governor has proposed cutting the state rate in half; as local fees have been limited to the state maximum rate by statute, there has been concern that reducing the state fee would jeopardize existing local fees. The Administration has assured VACo that its intent is to preserve local authority to impose license fees at the current maximum state rate, and the omnibus transportation funding bill as introduced contains such language; the budget amendment is intended as an additional layer of protection for local fees.
“Orphan” drainage outfalls
Item 430 #2h (Tyler and Brewer)/Item 430 #1s (Lucas) direct the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Natural Resources, in consultation with affected counties, to evaluate the prevalence across the state of drainage outfalls that originate from roads maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation but do not have an entity assigned to maintain them, and recommend cost-effective approaches to fund maintenance of these “orphan” outfalls.
Preservation of Communication Sales and Use Tax Trust Fund
Item 3-1.01 #1h (Plum)/Item 3-1.01 #3s (Ebbin) protect the Communications Sales and Use Tax Trust Fund from further erosion by eliminating a proposed transfer of $2 million per year from the Trust Fund to the state General Fund. When localities agreed to the restructuring of local telecommunications taxes in 2006 and these taxes were consolidated into a single tax collected by the state, it was understood that these revenues were to be held in trust for localities, not used for general state purposes. In 2018, there were savings in the telecommunications relay contract, which is funded “off the top” of the Trust Fund in accordance with statute; rather than distribute the savings to localities, the General Assembly swept $2 million per year into the General Fund. This amendment reverses that transfer in the 2020-2022 biennium.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle