By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
Well that did not take long. Just a week after Fluvanna County’s draft budget was announced, the fractures in the Budget Committee presentation appeared, with one committee member – new supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) backpedalling from his support for spending cuts and a large tax increase.
During the February 15th Board of Supervisors meeting, at which there was a paucity of substantive action, some budgetary outlines did emerge. Subsequent conversations showed even more fissures.
Both supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Ullenbruch opposed establishing a capital reserve fund that would allow for planned replacement and repair of county facilities and equipment. This was one of the more novel additions to the Capital Improvement Plan by the Budget Committee and is designed to institute a more professional approach to county management.
Mr. Weaver introduced a number of other budget cut proposals to the Board that would drastically reduce the need for major tax increase, but the supervisors took no action on his proposal. Mr. Ullenbruch sought to introduce into this budget operational funding necessary to support future capital improvement projects beyond FY 2013. Chairman Shaun Kenney politely informed him that such expenditures would be irrelevant until such time as the projects are undertaken.
Subsequent conversations with government officials revealed heightened frustration with the turn of events. Instead of working from an endorsed budget committee proposal to the supervisors, the backtracking began almost immediately. For example, small cuts to constitutional officers — less than $100,000 — now may be restored if one supervisor gets his way, according to one source.
Moreover there is a strong element of mistrust creeping into the whole process. One supervisor has accused the staff of duplicity, saying he “was duped”, according to a senior official. Moreover, Mr. Ullenbruch has publically informed his colleagues that he “probably knows more about the budget than anyone at this table”. Frequently he also has publically informed the staff that they are wrong on particular points.
Frustration also was evident when Ullenbruch could not get one colleague to support his “government reform committee” proposal. It went beyond the Board of Supervisors’ governing authority and his colleagues returned it to him for further work.
The supervisors will meet with the Fluvanna School Board on February 22nd for an initial budget discussion.
William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
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