By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
On January 7th, Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors kicked off the New Year by reelecting Marvin Moss (Columbia) and Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna) as Chair and Vice Chair respectively. The Board then plunged into a series of informational presentations that provided some clarity to such issues as the new budget and the proposed water line.
New Budget to Hit Hard
County Administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV presented a bleak budget scenario for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2010 begins July 1st). He said that, as of now:
· State aid to the school system may decline by as much as $2 million;
· He is not budgeting a pay increase for County employees, and he will request that they pay for any health premium increases;
· Personal property tax revenue likely will decline since the [NADA] Blue Book values have declined sharply for SUVs and trucks;
· Most departments have submitted budget requests that are either lower or at the same level as the current fiscal year; and,
· There will be a 7 to 10 percent cut in state funding for the constitutional officers.
Supervisors will begin their review of the budget on February 11th.
Water Pipeline Proposal
Mr. Chris Luning of Aqua Virginia surprised the supervisors with a revised proposal to operate the proposed water pipeline from the James River. The proposal would commit the company to fund a $7 million expansion of its treatment facility at Lake Monticello to 4 million gallons per day (gpd). This would eliminate the need for the county to construct such a facility.
Mr. Luning also said his company would lease or use another mechanism to pay for the use of the pipelines that would be jointly constructed by Fluvanna and Louisa counties.
He will provide a written proposal prior to a special joint meeting with the two county Boards of Supervisors, tentatively scheduled for January 26th (at 2:00 pm in the Zion Crossroads’ Best Western Hotel).
A subsequent briefing by the Public Works Director John Robins provided additional background on cost structure prepared prior to the Aqua Virginia proposal. The construction cost that would be jointly funded by Fluvanna and Louisa would amount to $45 million – including a $15 million treatment plant. This excludes the $3.8 million that Fluvanna would pay for the connection to Fork Union. Mr. Robins also suggested that a $3.50 per thousand gallons wholesale rate and a $7.00 retail rate would make the service viable and would equate to about a $35 per month water bill for residents.
Subsequent to the meeting, one county official said that the county probably would need about $250 million in new development over the next ten years to pay for the pipeline [through real estate taxes], something the official viewed as an achievable goal.
Details on the School Bond Issue
Mr. David Rose of Davenport briefed the Board on the details of the school bond issue. He stated that:
· The bond was priced at $67,525,000 and no debt service reserve fund was required;
· The interest rate was 5.95 percent, below the county’s maximum of 6 percent;
· The bonds were issued through the Virginia Public School Authority’s “Stand-Alone” program, which will allow the county to refinance at a later date should conditions warrant;
· The average annual payment over the 27 years will be about $5.2 million; and,
· The impact on the real estate tax rate is estimated to be 13.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation [taking into account anticipated growth].
Supervisor Gene Ott (Rivanna) challenged Mr. Rose’s statement hat this was a good deal for the county. Mr. Ott said that homebuyers are paying less for their mortgages, and: “This is not a good deal; this is a tax free bond”.
The Capital Improvement Plan Proposal
Mr. Lawton also presented the proposed Capital Improvement Plan for FY 2010-14. Supervisors will approve capital spending as part of the FY2010 budget. The proposal requests $5.7 million in new projects for that year, including:
· A $3 million borrowing for two new fire stations (Fork Union and Kents Store);
· A $2 million borrowing for the Human Services building improvements and Carysbrook campus;
· $300,000 for new school buses; and,
· Another $423 thousand for various other projects.
Should the entire package be approved as submitted, the county would borrow another $28 million over the next five years, or about 80 percent of the total project cost. The Capital Improvement Plan excludes any borrowing or funding for the water pipeline (projected at an additional $25 million), a fact that was not lost on Supervisor Ott: “it looks like we’re sliding it under the door”, he said.
There also will be a public hearing by the Planning Commission on the draft Comprehensive Plan on January 14th at 7:00 pm in the Courthouse, and the supervisors will hold their first work session on the document on February 7th, from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon.
The next regularly scheduled Board meeting will be on January 21st, at 7:00 pm in the Courthouse.