Montgomery budget hearing brings cheers, jeers on school spending
3:51 p.m. Correction: Montgomery supervisors changed the dates for their next budget work session and for when a budget proposal will be available. A previous version of this article had the earlier, incorrect dates. Also, the spelling of Mark Cherbaka’s name has been corrected.
CHRISTIANSBURG — Montgomery County’s new schools — and the tax increase that will be needed to pay for them — drew a handful of comments Monday at the Board of Supervisors’ preliminary budget public hearing.
“The tax increase is not going to satisfy the schools’ appetite for money,” said Blacksburg resident Bill Murray, whose unsuccessful campaign for a supervisor’s seat last fall was based on ratcheting down school costs.
Murray and another speaker, Jack Selcovitz of Pilot, said the county should stop paying all of teachers’ health insurance premiums. Selcovitz said teachers perhaps should cover some of the county’s contribution to their retirement pensions as well.
Montgomery voted last year to build new Blacksburg and Auburn high schools and to renovate Auburn Middle School. County officials and bond rating agencies have projected that a 10-cent increase in Montgomery’s 75-cents per $100 value real estate tax rate will be needed to cover construction expenses.
Mark Cherbaka of Blacksburg told supervisors a tax hike would be worth it, noting that the high-tech companies the county courts won’t come if workers’ children cannot attend quality schools. He said last fall’s election showed Montgomery residents don’t mind paying for education.
“I think the lines were pretty clearly drawn … and those people won,” Cherbaka said.
Only six people spoke at the hearing, with one urging support for parks and recreation programs and another stray cat spaying and neutering. The rest spoke about schools.
The next Montgomery meeting dedicated to the budget is set for Feb. 6. Supervisors do not plan to have an actual budget proposal until a month or more after that.