By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
At the December meeting of the Greene County Planning Commission, commissioners reviewed the department requests for capital projects for the next fiscal year. Planning Director Jim Frydl reviewed the state requirement that requires the annual Capital Improvement Plan and reminded the Commission that it should be in line with the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
Frydl’s presentation included a study from consulting firm Cardno regarding County government facility needs. The presentation provided a yearly estimate for the next five years by project within each department of the county.
The goal of having this list of projects reviewed in December is to have it passed to the Board of Supervisors in January, 2020 so that they can review it and determine what projects will be included in the next budget cycle.
This year’s presentation this year contained additional project data. Categories of expenditures were summarized by both type of need and, also, by the source of funds and grant availability. Finally, the impact to the tax rate based on the current amount of tax revenue per $.01 was calculated by year. While this information is provided to the Planning Commission, they are an advisory body, only the Board of Supervisors has the ability (and responsibility) for setting the tax rates.
The discussion focused on the size of the tax rate each year and how much of an increase would be required to fund all the projects for that year. The sizes of the increased property tax rate to fund all the purchases is staggering with first year being $.095 and the next three years ranging from $.31 to $.83 and backloading a huge tax increase of $2.84 in the fifth year. The total funds required per the five year presentation is approximately $110 million. This amount may be misleading as most of the larger projects will be financed over a period of time and not all expended in the year it appears in the Capital Improvement Plan. This would reduce the impact on the annual tax rate dramatically.
It seems obvious the tax increases discussed are well beyond the ability of the citizens to fund them (and the political will to enact them). With no speakers from the public the Planning Commission wrestled with what is their role in this process.
Frydl discussed options for the Planning Commission – did they want to pare down the list of projects to something economically feasible or just pass on the list to the Board of Supervisors with recommendations? The commissioners didn’t feel it was their job to decide what projects should or should not be considered.
The commissioners explored many options as how to prioritize projects such as needs vs. wants or a ranking of projects or what is a mandated requirement. Also, Commissioner Ron Williams suggested that future cost avoidance be considered in making decisions to repair vs. buying something new.
The commissioners kept coming back to the fact that the Supervisors will have to decide how much money should be considered for projects and then prioritize the projects to be done. The discussion then shifted to should the commissioners express their suggestions as to which projects should given priority.
A consensus was reached that the water impoundment project was of the highest priority for Greene County. So the final decision was made to 1) point to the tax impact of funding all the projects, 2) recommend that the Board agree on what level of funds to allocate to projects and 3) stress that the water impoundment project was critical in the opinion of the Planning Commission.
The Commission voted unanimously to pass on the list of projects to the Board of Supervisors with the above recommendations. The Board of Supervisors will review the list of projects at their first January, 2020 meeting.
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