By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
“Matters from the Public” provides citizens the opportunity to address elected officials on any issue that is not on the governing bodies agenda for a public hearing. On April 10th, the Greene County Board of Supervisors heard from two citizens regarding restoration Sheriff Department FY19 funding.
The Board previously held budget review meetings and made recommendations that will be formally considered on April 24th at 6:30 pm. One of the Board directed changes to the departmental requests was to reduce the Sheriff’s Department requested increase of nearly $400,000 to $157,236 – which was the value of 2 new deputy positions.
Under “Matters from the Public”, Keith Bourne offered an offset to the increase requested by Sheriff Smith that was reduced by the Supervisors – $241,966. His suggestion was to eliminate the subsidy for the land fill/recycling center and have their tipping fees raised to have all costs paid for and, therefore, not require taxpayer funds to support the center. His logic was that this would encourage citizens to do more recycling to minimize the cost to dispose of trash. Those funds could then be used to fully fund the budget request of Sheriff Steve Smith.
Some though think that raising the tipping fees would cause people to stop bringing their trash to the landfill and disposing of it themselves. In addition to the potential increase in illegal dumping, an increase in cost could decrease use, which could lessen the tipping fees received and increase the need for more of a subsidy.
In speaking with Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) about the reduction in Smith’s budget request, he indicated that the supervisors eliminated all headcount increases in the departmental requested budgets. Herring clarified that the School Board receives a total dollar amount from the Supervisors and they, not the supervisors, determine whether to spend funds on increased headcount and the supervisors would have no say in that matter.
The other citizen, Mallory Lamb, brought up the issue that the school system has been able to keep unspent funds this past year of $700,000 and have accumulated over $3.5 million to date. This is the only department that is allowed to keep any unspent funds and is allowed to use those funds for capital expenditures. This means that these funds could be used for equipment or buildings but not for people or supplies.
This citizen asked that the Board of Supervisors fully fund Smith’s budget request and explained that the Sheriff’s Department has underspent their budget by approximately $250,000 the past four years. And that looking at these sources of revenue – increased tipping fees or the accumulated unspent funds the past four years be used to fund Smith’s requested budget.
Possibly the policy allowing the school system to “bank” unspent budgets should be reviewed for all county departments. It is important to note schools is not a county department but a separate entity with its own elected Board to oversee spending decisions. In addition, while other department have limited outside state and federal funding, the significance of variable, attendance based, state and federal funding create an additional level of complexity in school funding.
While most departments have needs for operating expenses vs. the schools having a large need for building and equipment the policy might be offered for expense items. The commitment to recurring operating expenses, such as personnel, would have to be managed so that it can be afforded ongoing. Reviewing spending patterns that show a consistent unspent balance to support a new expenditure could be put in place. However, this begs the question, why is a department consistently favorable to the budget that is submitted.
If the Sheriff’s Department is spending $250,000 less than budgeted for four straight years – why is the request for the prior year’s budget amount plus an additional $400,000 more for next year? Shouldn’t it only be for an additional $150,000 ($400,000 gross increase less $250,000 unspent)?
The final approval of the budget for all departments in the county rests with the Board of Supervisors. If a department is consistently spending $250,000 below budget for four straight years, why would the next year’s budget continue to be the prior year’s budget plus new items? It seems that the Board of Supervisors should look at the historical actual spending of a department, not just the prior year budget.
So if every department’s budget was calculated by using the most recent actual full year spending and a current year to date actual spending, maybe there would be funds available to fund some of the manpower requests, especially for the sheriff’s department which protects the citizens of Greene County.
Inversely, if any department is overspending their budget compared to previous year, it would prompt the question as to why and look for some corrective action.
It is unfortunate is that the different funding source complexities and governance structure results in the school system to march to a different budget beat than the other county departments.
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 http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org