By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Dozens of voters showed up at the Raymond Dingledine Performing Arts Center for Greene County’s public hearing on setting next year’s budget and the tax rates on Tuesday, April 28th. Greene’s Administrator John Barkley outlined the budget process to help fund the core services of the county – the schools, fire, rescue, parks, etc. [VAVoters.org has the video of Barkley’s budget introduction here.]
The advertised property tax rate was proposed at $.75/$100 of assessed value (up from $.72/$100) driven mainly by the 3% increase in school funding to increase staffing due to growth in the number of students.
After the introduction, Chairman David Cox opened the public hearing. The first speaker was announced candidate for At-Large Supervisor Bob Young.
Young expressed concern over the county continually drawing from the reserve fund to balance recent budgets including the proposed budget for 2015/2016. This year the reserve fund was drawn down by $4 million and the new budget shows $3.2 million from the reserve fund being used to balance the budget. He further expressed concern that without the reserve fund the equalization rate would have to be over $.90/$100 of assessed value.
Other public comments ranged from concern that low income housing drives up personal property taxes, concern of fixed income people paying higher taxes, the need to provide a future water supply for the county, etc. Some of the comments were off topic and focused on procedures within the county office building.
William Shifflett brought a county personnel issue that regarding a loan of $5,200 to Administrator John Barkley from the BOS for Virginia Retirement Service (VRS) contributions. In addition, several comments were made related to the process within the county related to Special Use Permits.
Finally, Sharon Mack from the Greene County School Board thanked the Board of Supervisors for considering increasing the schools budget to address the increasing student enrollment. In addition, the proposed budget includes a 2% increase for Virginia Retirement System funding and a 2% raise for staff.
The meeting then shifted to the Board of Supervisors who discussed the budget and tax rates. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) spoke first and expressed concern about the financial condition of the county and the declining reserve fund.
He pointed to the auditor’s comments about the county being stable but declining. He believes that the county has dropped below the minimum reserve balance that it has established and he stated he could not vote to pass this budget in his last year of being a supervisor.
Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) stated he concurred with Deane and that the equalization rate would be $.92/$100 of assessed value if there was no contribution from the reserve fund. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) stated that the reserve fund is not below the level set by the Board of Supervisors and that the water empowerment is causing the need to draw funds from the reserve fund. $2 million dollars is needed for Water and Sewer and Water Empowerment. Addressing the public comment regarding the loan to Barkley, Frydl said it was due to a mistake made with his VRS contribution and the employee should not be penalized.
Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) stated that the Board of Supervisors needs to stand together and that Supervisor Deane had made the comment during the budget process that the budget is “cut to bare bones”. The school faculty and staff is the lowest in the area and a 3.3% increase is not outrageous. Part of the budget issue in recent years is the lack of sale of Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) certificates when the water and sewer project was completed. He appreciated Young’s willingness to get involved and invited others to attend future Board meetings and run for office.
Martin believes that Greene County is managing through the recession better than most counties in the area. The fact that the population in Greene’s schools is increasing indicates that the county is attracting more residents. He further encouraged residents to speak to their state representatives about unfunded mandates being pushed down to the county level.
Chairman David Cox (Monroe) has heard of horror stories of other counties not addressing the need for water. He agreed that Greene must keep going forward in acquiring land for the water supply. He appreciated the departments tightening their budgets and he is comfortable with the budget being presented tonight.
Deane stated that he felt that the personal property tax rate should be increased by $.03/$100 of assessed value so that there is not a larger increase next year. Frydl made a motion to accept the $.75/$100 rate and Supervisor Lamb seconded the motion which then passed on a vote, 5-0.
Photo Credits: Bob Young Campaign, Greene County, Lined in
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