By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative
Any thoughts that a light agenda meant an early evening quickly disappeared at the Board of Supervisors meeting on November 5th.
Things got off to an interesting start when a clearly agitated Chairman Marvin Moss (Columbia) interrupted county administrator G. Cabell Lawton’s routine briefing on a potential bond issuance to berate a letter-writing citizen who happened to be in the audience.
Reading from a letter written by Mr. Leroy McCampbell that appeared in the November 3rd issue of the Daily Progress, Mr. Moss blasted the statement that said: “Fluvanna taxpayers have been led to believe that the agenda for the Nov. 5 Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors meeting will include a proposal to seek buyers for the new bonds at interest rates of 8.5 percent to 9 percent.”
“This is irresponsible and misleading, and I want everyone here and in the county to know it”, Moss said. He also stated that there was never any idea to raise the allowable borrowing rate to those levels.
Then during the public comment period fourteen citizens addressed the need for supervisors to take into account the current economic circumstances when considering the upcoming bond issue for the new high school. All urged restraint, reconsideration, or delay until economic circumstances improved. Several cited existing county obligations such as social services that will require greater county funding as the state cuts funding to localities.
While some criticized the school system and the need for a new high school directly, most speakers emphasized the affordability and the necessary tax increases that would be needed to pay for the bond.
In the second public comment period, Mr. Lee True, head of the Fluvanna Taxpayers Association, repeatedly sought assurances from the supervisors that they would not authorize paying an interest rate above six percent. While no supervisor responded directly, the impression was left that the Board would retain that rate.
Supervisors seemed surprised by the spate of comments directed at them. While consideration of a possible interest rate increase initially was planned as part of a presentation by the county bond advisors, the briefing never made it to the agenda. Prior to the meeting some supervisors wondered why so many citizens showed up. They soon learned.
There were several reports to the Board including one by Sheriff Ryant Washington and one by Dr. Jackie Meyers, head of the county’s Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) program.
The sheriff highlighted his department’s activities for 2007 and noted that overall crime in the county had declined by four percent over 2006. This continues a trend that shows an overall decrease of 16 percent over the past three years.
Destruction and vandalism of property declined by over twenty percent in the county last year, while assaults decreased by 16 percent. Burglaries, larcenies, and breaking and enterings did rise by about eighteen percent however.
Dr. Meyers highlighted how the CSA program spent its allocated $2 million. Roughly four fifths of the expenditures were for foster care programs, while the remaining was spent on special education – beyond what the county schools provide.
Meyers also confirmed what one citizen alluded to in the public comment portion of the meeting: the upcoming state assistance cutbacks. The county share of residential and foster care costs (excluding family foster care) will increase from the current 38 percent to 44 percent in January, 2009 and then to 48 percent next July.
The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for November 19th, at 7:00 pm in the County Courthouse.