By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative
The recent elections have changed the dynamics of the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors and as a result we can expect a more activist approach, especially in its first year. The two rookie supervisors have stressed greater transparency and accountability, while the two more conservative members would like to undo some decisions of the previous Board.
Here are some educated guesses on how the new Board will deal with some of the issues coming before it.
FY 2010 Budget: Apart from debt service, expect cuts. Supervisors know they will have to raise taxes to fund rising debt, but they will be loathe to increase taxes to fund any increase in operations.
The James River Water Authority (JRWA): This is unlikely to survive in its present form. At least three of the supervisors, not to mention widespread voter sentiment, oppose the joint authority with Louisa. Supervisors could opt for a Fluvanna-only authority to push the pipeline forward.
Land Use: Although the issue flew below the radar in the campaign, supervisors will be updating the subdivision and zoning ordinances to bring them into compliance with the new Comprehensive Plan. Past Boards have avoided dealing with the rural preservation issue, which many observers believe would require some downzoning to be effective.
School Board: Voters also elected a School Board that will not be a rubber stamp for the superintendent and one that should be more in tune with the supervisors’ philosophy. Both Boards might look for ways to reduce potential new school debt by reprogramming some existing high school debt funds to other essential school rehabilitation projects.
Taxation: Two issues are likely to emerge: setting a reassessment date –currently, taxpayers are over-assessed by about 15-20 percent – and, dealing with uncollected taxes. Taxpayers owe the county nearly $2 million in back taxes, penalties and interest. Although the Treasurer is responsible for collection, this could become a political issue as taxes rise and services are cut.
Administration: The new Board will be looking to hold the county administration more accountable for, among other things, more and better analysis of long-term financial implications of various projects, and policies. Supervisors occasionally have been asked to make decisions absent sufficient information.
Supervisors are anxious to get off to a quick start in January, but will be constrained to some degree by the learning curve and budget preparation in the first quarter. But by the end of 2010, then new Board should have its stamp on the county’s policies and practices.