By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer
At the end of April, a group of citizens in Fluvanna County gathered quietly to examine in detail the school division’s budget proposal and current expenditures. They had reason to. Some of the group had strongly opposed the proposed real estate tax rate of $.68 per $100 of assessed value, which would have increased the tax rate by nearly 20 percent.
The group was told by one official that in order to make any headway with the Board of Supervisors, it would have to recommend specific school budget cuts, not just a “generic cut”. They did. The crux of the budget cuts that the Board approved on May 2nd emanated from this private group. The budget cuts reduced the real estate tax hike from $.68 to $.5981, or to an increase of 5 percent.
Given the private recommendation, Chairman Shawn Kenney (Columbia) came on board at the end of April. Now there were three votes to approve cuts to the school budget. This was the deciding vote to cut the school funding and reduce the tax rate.
In order to manage the political process, Kenney quietly informed two county staff members that the budget numbers might change and requested new budget data. But according to sources, no one informed either the schools or other supervisors of the new proposal. It was hardball politics to ensure that the word did not spread.
The school administration and the other supervisors (Joe Chesser (Rivanna) and Mozell Booker (Fork Union)) were informed about three hours before the supervisors’ public meeting that the deal was cut. School Superintendent Gena Keller attempted to address each of the potential cuts to her budget proposal, but given the short notice, was ill prepared to provide detailed information.
Supervisors cannot dictate specific dollar cuts to the school board; either they provide a single figure for an aggregate budget, or they can provide figures for broad categories. Therefore, the specific cuts proposed by the supervisors are only recommendations. But here are some of the recommendations:
Reduce health insurance contribution by $359,000 – according to one source, the county overfunded health care last year and this is a catch up;
Reduce the retirement “bonus” work program and eliminate one part-time position – which currently occupied by supervisor Mozell Booker – total value: $332,000;
- Grab the Virginia new windfall contribution: $238,000;
- Deny a 2 percent salary supplement: $452,000;
- Close two schools and eliminate automobiles: $369,000
Overall, the schools were cut $2.33 million over the last advertised budget. But the cut is less than that when measured against the FY 2012 budget. The county contribution to the schools, when measured against that figure, amounts to a $1.4 million, or a 10.2 percent cut.
Supervisors also made a significant cut in the county’s contributions to non-profit organizations, and completely eliminated its contribution to JAUNT, thus calling into question as to whether there will be any public service transportation in the county starting in July. Last year, Fluvanna contributed $91,000 to JAUNT.
William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credit: Shaunkenney.com