By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
Fluvanna County residents should expect an increase in taxes this year, that much we know. How much? It’ll be more than just a few cents and could be high.
That assumption is drawn off of public conversation at Board of Supervisors meetings.
On January 21, the supervisors spent an hour going over a budget update before they got their budget proposal. In that process, they delayed over $300,000 of CIP projects to help fund fiscal year 2016. That’s just over a penny of real estate tax.
Projects include restroom and picnic shelter at Pleasant Grove and rechassis of a Fluvanna ambulance.
But, delaying some other projects will ‘kick the can down the road.’ A phrase that was used no less than 10 times during the meeting, and probably much more frequently.
“First of all, you need some of this money,” said Steve Nichols, county administrator.
He will present his budget proposal at the Feb. 4 meet, at 4 p.m. The drafts that supervisors have looked at were described as shocking.
Nichols’ reputation is a strong budget proposer too. His budgets have historically been viewed as fair and politically passable. Supervisors wouldn’t divulge any aspects of the budget except to say a tax increase is inevitable.
“In a budget year you don’t have a lot of options (to lower costs), it is an option,” said Nichols as the supervisors perused previously approved Capital Improvement Plan projects that they had the ability to be delayed or canceled.
Before getting through just the first few projects, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) asked, “Is that kicking the ‘can down the road’?”
Nichols responded, “Yeah. A lot of these are.”
That was in regard to replacing the HVAC system in the county administration building. Also could be included in that discussion is fixing the potable water issue at the Fluvanna Public Safety and Library complex. Or not replacing Sheriff Office vehicles.
One budget item that will probably get slashed but is still on life support was the wireless internet hardware at Fluvanna County Public Schools. All schools except the high school are operating on hardware from 2003. The hardware had a 10-year license and now whenever there is a power failure, the information technology team has to reset the system to 2013 to operate again. In 2015, the wireless system has to think it is 2013 to function.
Beyond power blips from the power company causing issues, the hardware is not supported to have every student in every classroom with an internet-abled device, bandwidth for the amount of users on the network, network handoff from device to device and countless other technology advancements since 2003.
The high school has 150 wireless access points in it. The four other schools have 120 (combined) and want to increase that to 240 to 280. It will require additional infrastructure to get the up to date technology to work at standards.
Besides power issues, bandwith and lack of access of the wireless system, there is a fear that the system will stop working for another unknown issue.
“We will potentially find new problems or the wireless will stop working,” said Josh Gibson, director of technology for FCPS.
If supervisors delay the estimated $600,000 project into multiple years, supervisors could save $200,000 this year. That is just under a penny of real estate tax.
The forecast based on conversations around the supervisors is FY16’s budget will be a doozy and won’t stop the problem. Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families (CSA) will need an increase, the jail the county uses will need a few hundred thousand this year and possibly more next year, costs associated with the James River Water Authority will be known, Zion Crossroads water infrastructure cost, increase in cost of providing current county services and schools.
There will be a reassessment that will take affect, lowering this year’s tax rate because property values increase. Still, Fluvanna will need an increase in revenue to support current operations.
Nichols’ budget will be formally presented on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
Photo Credits: Fluvanna County, Harvard University