Northampton Appropriates $30.5M for FY 2021 Budget

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Northampton County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution June 23 to appropriate nearly $30.5 million for the general fund in its fiscal year 2021 budget.

More than $18.5 million of county revenue, or about 60% of the general fund, will come from real estate and personal property taxes.

The largest departmental expenditures in the general fund are about $6.5 million for public safety, around $3.6 million for public works, and about $2.5 million for county administration.

Operating funds for other entities, including Northampton County Public Schools, social services, and the Eastern Shore Regional Jail, are separate.

It will cost around $19 million for the school division to operate this year, including about $12.6 million for teacher salaries and benefits and $1.6 million for administration, attendance and health personnel.

Roughly 80% of the school division’s operating budget pays school employee salaries and benefits.

More than $9 million of the school division’s budget is funded by the county.

There is a separate fund for Northampton’s school food service program, which is run like a business and is not normally subsidized by the county. That program is budgeted at approximately $1 million.

Supervisor John Coker reported that the school division has applied for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision program and all Northampton public school students should get free breakfasts and lunches throughout the upcoming school year.

Northampton County social services will operate at a cost of about $2.6 million, and the jail will operate at a cost of about $4.2 million.

Northampton will pay nearly $2.8 million on its general debt and $1.375 million on school debt in FY 2021.

Finance Director John Chandler also presented a budget amendment of about $27 million for FY 2020, representing money the county has borrowed for a major repair and construction project at Northampton High School. Supervisors voted to approve the funds Oct. 9, 2019.

Of the $27 million, a little more than $21 million will go toward construction costs, and $1.75 million will pay for construction management.

The school building design and engineering phase, which supervisors have authorized, will likely cost $2 million.

The money borrowed includes more than $2 million in interest.

Supervisors recently learned the county may need to borrow another $10 million to finish the high school project, which could cost $35 million.

A one-cent sales tax rate increase could help pay for the project.

When Northampton County citizens go to the polls on Election Day this November, a majority must vote “yes” for the sales tax before it can take effect.

In 2019, Halifax County, Va., passed a one-cent sales tax increase to fund school construction, and Halifax officials invited Northampton officials to a June 24 online meeting to learn how it was done.

Northampton supervisors also adopted tax rates for 2020, which remain largely unchanged from 2019 rates.

Real estate taxes will slightly increase from 83 cents to 83.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. Personal property taxes will stay the same, $3.90 per $100 of assessed value.

Supervisor Betsy Mapp asked why the tax rate for boats was only 99 cents per $100, less than the tax rate for farm machinery and equipment of $1.20 per $100.

Coker said some counties charge a boat tax of just one cent per $100 of assessed value. “The reason they do that is they want boats to come there and dock and, you know, spend money there.”

The higher the boat tax rises, “the more you drive boats out of your county,” Coker explained.

Coker said he knows people from Cape Charles who move their boats every winter so they don’t have to pay Northampton’s 99-cent boat tax rate.

Virginia boat tax rates are based on where the vessel is located on Jan.1.