By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors got a dose of budget reality at their February 4th meeting. County administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV outlined the staff prepared budget proposal for Fiscal year 2010, and it is lean. Mr. Lawton proposes no tax increases, cuts funding for major departments, and proposes only three construction initiatives: new fire stations in Kent Store and Fork Union, and refurbishing of the Carysbrook social services building.
Lawton proposed a $67.7 million budget, which includes federal and state contributions. This is a 5.8 percent increase from the current $64 million FY 2009 budget. The growth is attributable to: county obligations for the regional jail ($400 thousand), increase in state mandates under the Community Service Act (CSA) — $200 thousand, and a $3.9 million hike in county debt service.
To meet those obligations, the county administration has cut operational spending by nearly $800 thousand across departments, reduced social services by over $100 thousand, and saved an additional $1.4 million in landfill closure expenditures.
Additionally, Lawton anticipates a $2.4 million reduction in school funds. He projects that the state contribution will be reduced by an already announced $2.1 million dollars — and for the first time in recent memory, cuts the county contribution by about $300,000. Traditionally, the county administration holds its school contribution constant and lets the supervisors decide whether to increase the county’s payment.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas W. D. Smith has requested a $300,000 increase from the county in his preliminary recommendation to the School Board, and now will be faced with a potential cut by roughly the same amount.
Eliminating the proposed fire station and Carysbrook renovations would not free up funds since those projects would use new borrowed funds, according to Lawton. He does, however, use $700,000 in “undesignated fund balances” – the county’s savings account – to close the spending gap.
Under the proposed budget, the tax rate would remain the same. Last year, the county set aside a three-cent levy for payment of school debt service. However, staff has not recommended a similar increase this year. This led supervisor Gene Ott (Rivanna) to question why, since according to him, the county’s repayment strategy was predicated on incremental tax increases.
Supervisor Charles Allbaugh (Rivanna), who sponsored the incremental tax hike approach last year, said that the issue was “open for discussion” during the budget debates. The Board will begin that process on February 11th with an initial work session on expenditures.
Water Pipeline Update
By a 4-2 vote (supervisors Weaver (Cunningham) and Ott dissenting) the Board agreed to advertise for a public hearing on creating a water authority to oversee the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed pipeline to Zion Crossroads.
This follows the joint meeting county officials held with their Louisa counterparts and sets the stage for potentially establishing the authority by April.
Other Board Actions
In other actions, supervisors:
· Heard the results of the pay and classification study for county employees;
· Were briefed on the workload of the Fluvanna circuit court;
· Agreed to permit staff to negotiate a price for a state mandated water supply plan that will address county needs for the next 30-50 years;
· Agreed to start paying county staff on an every two-week basis and to mandate direct deposit of pay funds;
· Endorsed a Va. Department of Game and Inland Fisheries proposal to have the Virginia Department of Transportation to extend Route 646 (and restore a bridge) to reopen over two miles of James River waterfront to the public; and,
· Were addressed by the Virginia Association of Counties President Don Hurt, who called for greater cooperation among the counties to reduce state unfunded mandates.