By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
At the previous Board of Supervisors meeting in Greene County the property tax rate was increased to equalize the reduction in property values so that the same amount of tax revenue would be generated in the coming year. At the May 14th BOS meeting the proposed budget that was being reviewed that held local spending flat and required the school system to absorb lower state and federal funding, as had been requested by the school system.
Before discussion of the budget started, Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) proposed that a consultant be contracted to review the budget process and provide an evaluation on the process. The only change to the budget that was presented on the 14th was a new request from the Economic Development Authority for additional funding of $12,000 for Small Business Development to hire a part time position. The Board chose not to fund this request in the budget.
Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) was the first supervisor to speak to the budget and he indicated that he couldn’t approve the advertised budget. He cited many inconsistencies in the school budget and referred to cuts in number of school employees made in 2006/7 and 2008/9 along with the 22.5 employee reduction required to offset the reduction in state and federal funding but then when he compared number of employees of 2008 vs. 2012 he found there is an increase. He said that he would be a hypocrite if he approved the budget with the schools request when he voted against the higher tax rate. He had agreed to only advertise the $.72/$100 new tax rate but he didn’t favor the schools flat funding.
Chairman Frydl asked Mr. Lamb how much he would reduce the request by but Mr. Lamb didn’t provide a specific figure instead he indicated that it was only the school component of the budget he didn’t approve of – the major part of the budget.
Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville District) spoke next and he also said he opposed the proposed budget and stated that the majority of citizens he has spoken with were against tax increases. Also, he argued why should citizens pay a higher rate when their property assessments have declined indicating a decline in the property’s value. He felt that the county should only spend 60% of its revenue for schools. He expressed concern that the Reserve Fund has been drawn down the past two years and that in order to pay for all the future projects being considered the property tax rate would need to go up to $.85/$100. Mr. Peyton also indicated concern that Greene County is heading down a path of financial insecurity and fears that Greene will have to return to borrowing to pay the bills. Currently Greene County has $46 million in debt, the Reserve Fund has been consumed and replenished the past two years and the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is a wish list and won’t get done. He is fearful that the county is heading down the same path as the federal government and Greene County can’t continue to tax and spend.
Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) spoke next. He recalled that ten years ago the rate was $.84/$100. The tax rate has been lowered and now the failure to sell more hook ups to the water and sewer system is causing the cost of that project to be borne by the taxpayers in their tax rate. He also said it is sad that local communities have to make up for state and federal mandates being passed on without funding. While he believes there may be cuts in spending in every department in the county, he was in favor of the proposed budget.
Supervisor David Cox stated he supports our budget and thanked Tracy Morrisl for her efforts in preparing the budget and he also thanked the school system in responding timely to his requests for additional information. He indicated that he supports the budget even thought his own property taxes will be increasing as a result of an increase in his properties appraised value.
Chairman Frydl spoke last and challenged Mr. Peyton’s comment about the majority of residents in Greene being opposed to tax increases as he has gotten comments supporting both sides. He also agreed with Supervisor Cox’s comment about getting timely responses from the School System. He also disagreed with the 60% limit on school funding stating that the funding requests should be reviewed on an individual basis and not an arbitrary percentage. He supported the $.72/$100 tax rate and saw no reason to change from the advertised budget.
Mr. Cox proposed a motion to accept the proposed budget which Mr. Deane seconded. The vote of three ayes of Cox, Deane and Frydl carried the motion vs. the two no votes of Peyton and Lamb.
An additional item of note at the meeting was the announcement of Supervisor Buggs Peyton that he will not seek re-election.
The Free Enterprise Forum commends the Greene Board of Supervisors for their clear discussion on the pros and cons of the budget that was approved.
Brent Wilson is the Greene 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