Greene County Citizens Sound Off on Budget

 

Greene County Board of Supervisors Meeting April 27, 2010

By Teresa Gulyas, Greene County Field Officer

The public hearing for Greene County’s FY 2010—2011 county budget heard requests from the community to restore funding to departments impacted by anticipated budget cuts. Additional funds were requested for the following:

  • Greene County Treasurer Gail Berry requested $9,000 be restored to maintain the improved tax collections and reduced delinquencies achieved over the past year. She expressed concern about the increased workload required for collection of dog tag fees.
  • Cardie Luminack from the Shelter for Help in Emergency requested that the Board “make an investment, not a gesture” to support the Shelter. After being eliminated in a previous iteration of the draft budget, funding for the Shelter in the proposed budget is $1,000.
  • Several staff and community members supported increased fundingjaba logo for Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) to facilitate programs for senior citizens. Decreased funding would reduce home meals by 34 meals per person per year for those currently served. Home meals include frozen dinners and a nutritional supplement. Hot lunches offered at the community center would be reduced from twice a week to once a week. Eugene Sullivan, Greene County’s representative to the JABA Board, expressed that “efforts in Greene meet or exceed other counties” served by JABA.
  • Greene County School Board members Troy Harlow and Michele Flynn requested an additional $145, 545 for the school budget. Flynn suggested that reserve funds could be cut to meet funding requests of the school, JABA, and the shelter.
  • Cindy Knight identified herself as a “school employee, a tax payer, a voter, and a home owner” who’s son attended Greene County schools. Her concerns correlated increased school funding to productive citizenship for future generations and job security for those in the school system.
  • Jo Ann Woods, a Greene County kindergarten teacher, supported additional funding for the schools and JABA. She asked the Board to identify “where the fluff is” in the schools.

The majority of those who spoke thanked the Board for its careful consideration of their funding requests and acknowledged that changes are required in the current economic climate.

Board members expressed appreciation of the community’s input and added their comments:

  • Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) conveyed that the disappointing state shortfall will change the way we do business going forward in Greene County. Cuts for constitutional officers and the schools had a huge impact. The Board had to cut $78,000 from other agencies to feed into the school budget and the additional $411, 000 provided by the County exhausted new revenues available. Despite the reduced funding from the state, County contributions to the school budget are, in fact, up by 3.6% over last year. The following table illustrates funding changes over the past five years:
  County Budget School Budget
FY0607 $64,000,000 $38,000,000
FY1011 $49,000,000 $29,000,000

While the School budget dropped by $9,000,000 over the past five years, the County budget has dropped by $15,000,000 over the same time frame. Peyton continued that counties will need to grow their commercial base to increase local revenues to support local needs. He stated that proactive planning should prepare for anticipated continued reductions in state funding.

  • Carl Schmitt (At-Large) articulated that we as a country, a state, and as individuals “have been spending beyond our means for far too long” and that there can no longer be the assumption that revenue is coming. He reiterated the Board’s commitment to remaining a solvent and viable government and stated that more will be asked of individual citizens to respond to neighbors in times of need. “The government won’t be able to do it all, nor should it. If we had all the money in the world to fund everything, the community would be poorer because of it. The responsiveness of citizens helping others in need is what makes us richer as a community.”
  • Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) elaborated on Peyton’s comments, saying that although contributions to departmental budgets have decreased from the state, they have increased from the county. For the third year in a row, budget projections from the state have been wrong, meaning that the state has had to cut budgets and contributions to the counties. The $1.2 million allocated to reserves aren’t actual monies but are based on revenue projections that may or may not be funded. Frydl continued that current revenues for the state are 2% below projections and tax refunds are 2% above projections therefore Richmond may ask for more money. If they ask, they could ask for 4% of the county budget which is equal to $2,000,000.
  • Mike Skeens (Monroe) appreciated that citizens had provided food for thought and expressed concern that while this year was difficult next year’s budget could be even tougher.
  • Chairman Steve Catalano (At-Large) emphasized that the budget cuts are not a reflection of the caliber and quality of services delivered. The unanticipated edicts and fluid funding from the state has mandated a conservative approach. He reiterated that hope is on the horizon for revenue regeneration with new development in Ruckersville. He anticipates that the state will phase out funding for constitutional officers over a period of years. The County will continue restrictive practices related to hiring and travel and will not be providing take home vehicles.

In other action, the Board voted unanimously to maintain tax levies at FY 2009-2010 levels and to approve the resolution to reduce the percentage of tax relief for FY 2010-2011 as authorized by the Personal Property Tax Relief Act of 1998 as amended

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