By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
Just days after Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors approved a $60.6 million budget for FY 2011, things have started to unravel. Supervisors neglected to fund anticipated increases in the Virginia retirement system and medical insurance cost hikes. These costs collectively will be in the six figures.
Some supervisors also were surprised to learn that the tax collection assumptions also were adjusted upward without their agreement. This had the effect of projected about $100,000 more in revenue.
And, more than one supervisor was unhappy with other aspects of the budget process. For example:
Chairman Gene Ott (Rivanna) propounded the objective of equal burden sharing: if taxpayers were to pay more in taxes, then departments and agencies should, for the most part, share the pain equally. However, the only departments that absorb cuts approximate to or greater than the eight percent tax hike are: the schools (-8.7 percent), parks and recreation (-23.6 percent), and the library (-7.5 percent). Most departments within the county administration received modest increases.
The interim county administrator, Shelly Wright suggested that there could be double-digit layoffs, if funding were not restored within the county administration department. Even though no documentation was provided, supervisors restored some funding, and were then assured that layoffs would be substantially less.
Reportedly, the chairman wants to dip into the county’s savings account to solve the problems: something that previously he had considered untouchable in this budget process. Supervisors also will have to address this fiscal year’s deficit of another half million dollars or so this summer. Presumably, that will come out of the undesignated fund balance as well.
Supervisor Shaun Kenney (Columbia) was sharply critical of the whole process. He said: “What was lacking here was leadership. The chairman is expected to marshal four votes in an orderly fashion. What we had here was more akin to budget bingo than a thoughtful budget process”.