The Botetourt Board of Supervisors added a new tax rate line to the proposed 2017-18 fiscal year (FY18) budget last week. Along with real estate, machinery & tools, mobile homes, personal property and motor homes, there’s now a rate for wind farms.

The supervisors set the rate for wind farms at 99 cents per $100 of valuation with the expectation that if the Rocky Forge Wind Energy Project goes up on North Mountain, it will generate about $1 million in local taxes.

Supervisor John Williamson III, who chairs the board’s General Fund Budget Committee, made the recommendation based on what he called the expectations the county had when Apex Clean Energy first started working with the county on establishing a utility scale wind farm project.

The county has worked with Apex officials on what a possible tax rate would be. Williamson said if the county did not establish a wind farm rate, then the supervisors could have the wind farm taxed at the real estate rate (79 cents) or the personal property rate ($2.71).

Williamson said the real estate rate did not provide the expected $1 million in tax revenue, and the personal property rate would kill the project financially.

The supervisors watched a presentation on the General Fund Budget Committee’s recommendations during their regular session, made some minor adjustments and sent a proposed $95,122,510 to public hearing on April 18 at 7 p.m. at Greenfield Education and Training Center.

The budget includes $57.1 million for schools, $32.4 million for operations and capital projects, $3.5 million for debt service (primarily for schools), $1.85 million for the county EDA obligations for new industry and a contingency of just over $177,000.

The proposed budget is 2.8 percent higher ($2.56 million) than the current fiscal year budget— for expenditures and revenue.

The majority of the increase in revenue comes from local taxes that are expected to go up 4.8 percent, almost $2.3 million, to $50.4 million.

Much of that increase in expenditures— $1.4 million— will go to the county’s Economic Development Authority to pay for the county’s incentives for Eldor Corp. and Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits. Another $150,000 is set aside for preliminary engineering for Greenfield and $300,000 for project development costs at Greenfield.

The supervisors also agreed to include pay raises in the budget— a 1.5 percent pay raise for employees who are making less than $38,000 a year, and a 1.3 percent pay raise for those making more than $38,000.

The supervisors also are providing some funds to alleviate “compressed” salaries in the Sheriff’s Office.

The budget also maintains contributions to community organizations that the county has supported in the past.

The Capital Improvement Plan includes funding for a Solid Waste Disposal Study & Plan, continued replacement for the nearly 20-year-old emergency services portable and mobile radios, matching funds for the proposed greenway development, funds for continuation of improvements to county facilities, funds for economic incentives, the county’s first disbursement of funds toward the Botetourt Family YMCA and matching funds for the Greenfield Historical Preservation Site, and funds for a Greenfield Education and Training Center Space Utilization Study.

In a summary provided to the supervisors by Director of Financial Services Tony Zerrilla, the estimated nearly 5 percent growth in local tax revenue will come from across the board.

He said increases are expected to come from real estate taxes, personal property taxes, public service corporation taxes (the AEP substation at Cloverdale), sales taxes and hotel and meals taxes.

All indicate growth in the local economy, his report said.

The report to the board also says the county does not expect any significant negative impact from the Gateway Crossing construction during the next fiscal year.

The supervisors agreed with the recommendation from the Budget Committee to include an Agriculture Development position in the Department of Economic Development, and to convert overtime and compensatory time obligations into three new fire and EMS full-time positions.

The budget also includes the committee’s recommendation to finance up to three new fire trucks that will put new trucks in the field much sooner and allow the department to realign some existing equipment. The county doesn’t expect to have to purchase any more new fire trucks for several years.

The proposed line item budget for FY18 is available on the county’s website at http://botetourtva.gov under Your Government, Budget.

— Ed McCoy