Category Archives: budget

Government Tourism Coup Will Produce Poor, Politically Palatable, Promotion and Pitiful Profitability

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Local government is poised to cook the golden goose — tourism.

After a series of political moves over several years, local government, not the local tourism industry, is now in charge of marketing our community to the outside world; they honestly don’t know what they don’t know.

And they are about to become more powerful.

Please let me explain.

Imagine if your business was required to calculate, collect and turn over to the government additional taxes purportedly to promote the region and therefore generate more business for you.

That’s how § 58.1-3819. Transient occupancy tax (TOT) works.  This is the taxes paid by those who stay in a particular locality (Hotel, Motel, Campground, AirBnB, etc.) for the privilege of doing so.

So now that the tourist tax dollars have been properly collected and turned over to the government, who should be in charge of making the marketing decisions designed to generate tourism?

The industry or the elected officials?

The state code section seems to have an opinion about that specific issue:

….may levy a transient occupancy tax not to exceed five percent, and any excess over two percent shall be designated and spent solely for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that, as determined after consultation with the local tourism industry organizations, including representatives of lodging properties located in the county, attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the locality. If any locality has enacted an additional transient occupancy tax pursuant to subsection C of § 58.1-3823, then the governing body of the locality shall be deemed to have complied with the requirement that it consult with local tourism industry organizations, including lodging properties.

The Free Enterprise Forum joined with many in the tourism and hospitality industry raising concerns when the elected officials changed the structure of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) Board from being industry led (a best management practice across the nation) to being led by elected officials and government employees.  The current Executive Board includes a representative from each elected body, as well as Charlottesville’s city manager, Albemarle’s county executive, an economic development staff member from both the city and the county and a representative from the University of Virginia and two industry representatives, one each appointed by the city and the county. This means currently two-thirds (66.6%) of the current board is elected or works for the locality.

The localities want this to change, they want MORE POWER.  Next week (12/12) Albemarle County will accept public comment on the proposed changes to the CACVB.

From their proposed proclamation:

WHEREAS, the County and the City desire to amend the Agreement to authorize two members of the Board of Supervisors and two members of the City Council to serve on the CACVB’s Executive Board and to making any corresponding changes to the Agreement as provided in the amended agreement attached hereto as Attachment A (the “First Amended Agreement”).

Regardless of the individuals in the positions, this means that marketing and advertising decisions will be made by a a board where 73% of the members are not directly involved in tourism (either elected officials or work for the locality).  Does this sound like the kind of consultation contemplated under State Code?

The challenge of getting officials to understand marketing outside of their world was made exceedingly clear in the October CACVB advertising pitch.  Allison Wrabel of the Daily Progress has the story

CACVB Interim Executive Director Adam Healey said that the campaign is aimed at 25 to 44 year olds in the Washington, D.C. area and Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina, who are looking for short or overnight trips.

“You are not always your customer when you’re doing marketing,” he said…..

…Board member Roger Johnson, Albemarle County economic development director, said he thought the same general concept, but with a regional brand that “wasn’t so Charlottesville centered” would be “better accepted by the folks in Albemarle County who are taxpayers” and the target group….

…Albemarle supervisors Diantha McKeel and Ann Mallek said they hardly saw the county mentioned….“It will be a surprise to no one that it took me seven years to get Albemarle on the logo and I’m not going to give it up,” Mallek said….

Many of the industry representatives on the board supported using “C’ville” in some fashion and said they thought the proposed campaign was a great start.

“In my mind, the C’ville six letters identifies the region,” said George Hodson with Veritas Vineyard & Winery, the county tourism industry representative on the board. “I think we can’t lose sight of the forest through the trees and kind of lead with our own baggage. C’ville identifies this region without saying Charlottesville.”

“Why try to gum up peoples’ mouths with phrases and long things that aren’t going to be marketable?”

The proposal is the groundwork of a good campaign, he said.

With the latest government expansion it is being made abundantly clear that the government, not the practitioners will control the marketing message.  It’s difficult for many to understand, the message that resonates to you (and your voters) may not be the message needed to attract young visitors with disposable income and free time.  If such decisions are left to municipal officials, it may be a very expensive lesson.

We believe this structural error goes against best management principles and is in conflict with the intent of the state code.  We believe the imbalance should be reversed, those who collect tourist tax dollars [and have a vested interest in their success] should have the ability to impact where and how the promotional dollars are spent.

In addition, many of the officials on the CACVB board wants to change the performance metrics away from hotel occupancy rates “Heads in Beds” to something else.  If the funding comes from those “Heads in Beds” shouldn’t that be the promotional focus and evaluation tool?

I really hope we are wrong about the officials’ CACVB marketing blind spots and the localities don’t waste millions of visitor (not residents) tax dollars in poor promotion.

If we are right, unfortunately, it will be the tourism industry that will first feel the pain of a poor, politically palatable, promotion producing pitiful profitability.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: http://angielskidlakazdego.blox.pl/resource/goldenegg.jpg

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Fluvanna Supervisors Hear Property Assessment Results

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Last week, (10/3) the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors were briefed on the latest mass appraisal of real property performed.  The City of Fargo has a concise definition of this process:

Mass appraisal is the systematic appraisal of groups of properties as of a given date using standardized procedures and statistical testing. This differs from single-property appraisal, commonly referred to as “fee” or “bank” appraisal, which normally deals with only a particular property as of a given date.

Pearson’s Appraisal Service performed an appraisal this year, the first by the company in Fluvanna. Overall, the county saw an average increase of 4.7 percent increase across the county limits. However, inside Lake Monticello only increased 3.4 percent.

Representative from Pearson explained all assessment decisions were based on data from sales.

Lake Monticello vacant land had a decrease in assessment by 15 to 20 percent. Because the subdivision is nearly built out, most undeveloped property is not desirable.

The public utility infrastructure was also reassessed and goes effective immediately. The Commissioner of Revenue estimates that will bring in $83,000 of additional revenue. Those funds will increase the FY19 collection.

Notices of new tax values will be mailed to all land owners and Pearson will be available to discuss the new assessment.

Also at the October 3 Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors approved two change orders to complete the E911 radio project. The last two changes needed an additional $26,500.

The county’s animal shelter services are handled by Fluvanna SPCA. Despite the county only contributing for 50 percent of the operational costs, the county’s shelter takes up 75 percent of the FSPCA. To help alleviate some funding issues, supervisors approved a supplement of $35,000.

FSPCA and the county operate on a contract services. In future years, FSPCA will present a budget that supervisors can go over with FSPCA officials during the budget season.

Supervisors approved creating an employee ladder system in the E911 operations center. The FY19 fiscal impact was $10,000. Over the last few years county administration has worked at creating mobility options in the organization chart of departments to allow employees to get promoted. Previously employees would have to either wait to become a department head or leave for a bigger organization with a larger chart to fill.

Supervisors will next meet on October 17 at 7 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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credit:  Fluvanna SPCA

The Hindsight Report Back in the News

The Free Enterprise Forum’s 2017 ‘Hindsight’ Report was mentioned in Allison Wrabel’s  Daily Progress  article this morning. 

For context, we are reposting our original post on the topic.  The Free Enterprise Forum welcomes the community discussion of the agreement.

By. Neil Williamson, President

Often the most enlightening questions start with, “What if?”

Working with co-author Derek Bedarf, we looked at developing empirical data to answer the question, “What if Charlottesville’s annexation was successful compared with the results of the negotiated Revenue Sharing Agreement?”

After significant research and deliberation, it was determined that this information was available but not assembled in a manner that made such calculations easy. Utilizing Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for the real estate assessment data and 15 years of Albemarle County budget documents for the other taxes (sales taxes, consumer utility taxes, business taxes, motor vehicle licenses  and prepared food and beverage taxes.  Other taxes excluded from this study, for a variety of reasons, include utility consumption tax, short term rental tax, clerk fees, transient occupancy tax, penalties  interest, and audit revenues), The Free Enterprise Forum calculated the tax revenue generating power of the study area.

The resulting “Hindsight Report” examines the tax generating power of the proposed annexation area as it compares with the revenue sharing payments.

  •  The Hindsight Report indicates that over the study period (2001-2016), Albemarle County received, from the study area, over $277 million in local tax revenue compared with the $212.9 million revenue sharing payments made to the City of Charlottesville (+$64.1 million).

  • Had Charlottesville been successful in the annexation and the revenue sharing agreement not been in place, the City would have received $304.7 million in tax revenue from the study area during the study period compared with $212.9 million in revenue sharing payments from Albemarle County (-$91.8 million).

 

  • During the study period, study area property owners paid $72 million less in real estate taxes by being in Albemarle instead of the City of Charlottesville. This “Non-Annexation” Dividend averaged saved (Albemarle) property owners between $3 million and $4 million annually topping out at $6 million in 2007.

The question the data does not answer is whether the Revenue Sharing Agreement was a good deal for all involved.  This is a subjective question that can only be answered in context.

At the time, the historical record suggests annexation was a very real threat and revenue sharing negotiations were heated.

The historical public record also shows many citizens at the public hearing raising some of the same questions regarding equity and fairness that remain part of the discussion today.

Was it a good deal?

Hopefully this data will help you decide.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the Revenue Sharing agreement during their second August meeting on Wednesday August 9th.

Founded in 2003, The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization focused on Central Virginia’s local governments.

The entire Hindsight Report can be accessed at www.freeenterprisefoum.org under the reports tab.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Fluvanna Recoups $99K from Schools Bond

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are taking $99,000 of unspent middle school bond funds to reimburse the general fund.

In 2015, the board approved a Capital Improvements Plan project for $5.1 million for work being done at the middle school. But some of the projects approved were completed by Trane, the company who completed the energy performance contract. That left $99,000 of the school bond unspent. Bond counsel advised the supervisors could allocate the $99,000 to other work at the middle school, if desired.

The Board of Supervisors instead voted the second option the counsel offered, to take the $99,000 and reimburse itself for interest paid on the bond. That moves the money to the county savings, known as the general fund or fund balance.

While the book procedure is ‘repaying the interest,’ the $99,000 is in the unrestricted fund balance. And the supervisors can use the unrestricted fund balance as it desires.

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Chuck Winkler

School administrators have found a project more pressing than any other project the middle school needs. The S.C. Abrams building has gone through partial remediation for asbestos and mold. There are currently rooms that are unable to be used because of needed additional abatement.

“The [Abrams project] request is my top priority,” said superintendent Chuck Winkler.

The proposed projects at the middle school included flooring replacement in office and library and creation of a security vestibule.

“These other items are priority but they can come through the years,” said Winkler. He also mentioned items like the security vestibule could be available for grant funding.

Per bond counsel, the supervisors could only decide to do additional projects or reimburse the county. At a future meeting the supervisors can vote to expend the general fund as they see fit.

Other items the board approved during their August meeting included a Dominion Energy substation, authorization for a conditional use permit, and a budget transfer.

Dominion received approval for a substation in the Bremo Bluff area. The property is off of Route 15 and consists of 27 acres. High wires already cross over the land the substation will be built.

The authorization for conditional use permit is for Fluvanna County to apply for the permit in Louisa County. It is in regards to the Zion Crossroads water system because two properties that are affected are in Louisa. The friendly neighbors have waived the fees for the permit.

The facilities budget for FY18 was overspent by $75,000. Reasons were from several projects including reconfiguration of the Sheriff’s Office, ADA ramps at the Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue’s building, excess HVAC repairs and more.

The facilities budget is under the purview of the Director of Public Works. Three other budgets he oversees were under budget by $78,000. They included public works, general services and convenience center.

The supervisors will next meet on September 5 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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credit:  Fluvanna County Public Schools

Affordable Housing Policy Makes Building Affordable Housing Impossible

By. Neil Williamson, President

Back in 2005, when Albemarle County instituted its 15% inclusionary housing regulation on all new residential rezonings, Overton McGee, then Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity CEO stated “It was a good first step”.  I was quoted in The Daily Progress “You just made housing less affordable to 85% of new home buyers”.    My larger economic point seemed to be lost on the reported but time has proven this paradoxical prognostication to be correct.

Please let me explain.

Considering the previous Habitat CEO’s position on mandated 15% affordable housing requirements, it is interesting what the current Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity CEO, Dan Rosensweig said at an Albemarle County work session last week.  From my Twitter feed:

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Recent news reports have highlighted the impact of inclusionary zoning.  The Economist Booming Seattle Struggles to Stay Affordable spoke of “the grand bargain”

Seattle’s proposed solution to this deadlock, unveiled in 2015, is known as the “grand bargain”. It would reduce restrictions and unleash building on big patches of city. In exchange, developers would have to reserve a few units for renting below the market rate or pay into an affordable-housing fund. Such schemes, known as “inclusionary zoning”, are increasingly common in progressive American cities. They can lead to more mixed districts and placate left-wing critics. But they are not without problems.

By reducing future earnings, inclusionary zoning acts as a tax on new development. If the affordability requirements are set too high, many new projects will not be built. Bill de Blasio, New York City’s progressive mayor, championed requirements that at least one-fifth of new units should be offered below the prevailing market rate. San Francisco sets the threshold as high as 30% and imposes a clutch of added “impact fees”. Developers complain that these fees suffocate all but the most lucrative projects—which then invite criticism as “luxury high-rises”.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County have heard the cry of building only high end product.  The perverse reality is that the affordable housing fees actually push against housing affordability.

Due to regulatory hurdles and outright prohibitions, there is a lack of price variety (and format) in the new products being constructed.  In Late July, Daniel Herriges of www.StrongTowns.org wrote of the oft mentioned ‘missing middle’ housing in his article “Why Are Developers Only Building Luxury Housing”.

Missing Middle housing—buildings containing anywhere from 2 to 19 units—can be a sweet spot when it comes to construction cost. Duplexes through fourplexes in particular are built in much the same way as single-family homes, but the cost of the land is distributed across multiple households. Even cheaper to build than a duplex or fourplex is an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). It’s no accident that a disproportionate share of America’s existing “naturally occurring” (i.e. without subsidy) affordable housing takes Missing Middle forms.

Unfortunately, we’ve pretty systematically outlawed the Missing Middle in many neighborhoods. Single-family homes are the only thing that can be built on 80% of residentially-zoned land in Seattle, 53% even in renter-friendly San Francisco, and 50% in Philadelphia, to name just a few cities. In suburbs, it’s common for over 90% of land to be zoned for single-family residences exclusively.

Robert Steuteville writing on www.CNU.org highlights the work of Dr. Arthur C. “Chris” Nelson of the University of Arizona regarding the market demand for the ‘Missing Middle’ housing:

This supply and demand mismatch is behind the need for “missing middle” housing, often built by small developers and builders. Meanwhile, the demand for large-lot single-family housing, the mainstay of the US building industry from the 1960s through 2008, is declining. Nelson’s research comes up again and again in discussions with thoughts leaders in small-scale urbanism. . .

. . .Nelson has been saying much the same thing for more than 10 years—yes, even before the housing crash—and he has been right so far. His numbers are based on demographics, demographic trends, market trends, and housing supply and construction data.

 

If we accept that the majority of the land available for development is designated to single family residential, and that there is a market demand for a different, more intense form of development, can regulations be relaxed to allow such increased density and perhaps increase the supply of missing middle (affordable) housing?

Over the last few years we have seen significantly more multifamily housing units come into Albemarle County Development Area housing mix:

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According to Adam Beltz of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis is now considering fourplexes as part of their affordable housing solution:

In a cityscape dominated by single-family homes, a proposal to allow four-unit residential buildings virtually everywhere in Minneapolis is stirring strong and conflicting feelings among neighborhood leaders.

A draft of the city’s updated comprehensive plan won’t be published until March 22 or completed until December, but the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey were recently briefed on the high-level concepts, one of which is a historic rewriting of the zoning rules that would allow property owners to build fourplexes on any residential property in the city.

Middle Housing www.missingmiddle.com describes the fourplex as a medium structure that consists of four units typically two on the ground floor and two above with shared entry.  Typical unit size is between 500 – 1,200 square feet with a net density of between 15 to 35 dwelling units per acre.

How might such a proposal be received in the City of Charlottesville or Albemarle’s development areas?

  • How could reducing the regulatory requirements increase housing affordability?
  • Would increasing the developable area of Albemarle positively impact affordability?
  • Would relaxing Charlottesville’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations assist in providing a bulwark against gentrification and revenue for the existing homeowner?

We find ourselves agree with Albemarle Planning Commissioner Pam Reilly who last week said, “We are lacking an affordable housing policy to guide our decision making”.

If the community wants to address the market need for affordable, accessible housing, policies and regulations should permit, but not require, the market to respond to consumer demand for denser development AND redevelopment without mandated affordable units.

Ironically, getting rid of the affordable housing mandate will make housing more affordable.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit: www.missingmiddle.com

Fluvanna Increases Taxes, Reduces Capital Spending and Pulls From Fund Balance to Make FY19 Budget

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Last month, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed a FY19 budget that included a real estate tax rate of $0.939, an increase of three cents.

Part of the reason for that increase was health insurance was slated to increase $435,000. After some renegotiation, staff got a final figure of an increase of $228,000. However, the budget was already built with the larger figure.

Supervisors have decided to keep the budget as is and at the completion of the year will return that money to the fund balance, the county’s savings.

The budget included $127,000 operational cut, including $14,000 from nonprofits. Supervisors were presented with options to restore some of the cuts or at least make the nonprofits whole. Instead, the majority of the board decided to proceed with the cuts and if the departments needed to, the department head can come to the board to ask for additional money.

“Your (department) budgets are tight already. It is detrimental,” said Steve Nichols, county administrator. He noted the budgets were already very lean.

Nonprofits won’t get that opportunity because the county will send in pledges and some of those nonprofits will be part of the $14,000 cut. These cuts are reducing the amount the county will pledge to the individual nonprofits.

At the May 16 meeting, the supervisors will finalize which nonprofits will be cut.

The FY19 budget does include pulling $403,000 from the fund balance to balance the budget. The supervisors also took another $1.3 million for the capital improvement plan.

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Steve Nichols

“Frankly, if we can save some money, it would be great to put it back into the fund balance,” said Nichols.

The projected FY20 budget needs about $2.3 million, or 7.7 real estate tax cents, to balance.

The tax rate will get some relief next year because the county is doing a reassessment and property values are increasing. Whenever that happens, the tax rate adjusts inversely. But still, the need for additional tax revenue will be there for next year.

The budget has two factors that are not decreasing: employees (salary and benefits) and debt service. Debt service will stay level but employee salary and benefits will continue to rise.

While the county is aggressively trying to attract new businesses to help alleviate the tax burden on rooftops, any business coming will not have immediate impact.

The next meeting is May 16 at 7 p.m. with a proceeding 6 p.m. session.

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.

No Increase for Greene County Real Estate Tax Rates

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

In the next to final step in their FY2019 budget process, The Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to maintain the same real estate tax rate forclip_image001 the coming fiscal year – $.775/$100 of the assessed value.

 

County Administrator John Barkley presented an overview of the budget process that started last July, 2017 and will conclude with at the May 8, 2018 Supervisor meeting when the budget is voted upon. The process included three workshops, advertising the rates, tonight’s presentation and the May 8th vote on the final budget.

Barkley highlighted that the county is investing in training of county personnel but, other than the school system, there are no increases in headcount. In addition, the county is focused on improved technology for improved services. The budget has 16 departments that are reflecting reductions in spending.

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John Barkley

Barkley then showed that Greene County’s Real Estate Tax Rate ($.775/$100) is in the middle of the surrounding counties – higher than Madison ($.680/$100) , but lower than Albemarle ($.839/$100) and Orange ($.804/$100).

The proposed budget does have an increase from $61,281K to $63,592K, an increase of over $2 million. The rate is able to stay the same since there is a significant increase in the number of houses in Greene County which is the primary contributor to increased local funding of over $1.5 million from real estate taxes.

Two other reductions that stand out is a 12% reduction in Greene County’s share of the funding of the Central Virginia Regional jail. The other significant reduction is over $400,000 reduction in debt service as borrowings are being fully paid off. The budget for capital expenditures is approximately $750,000 ($550,000 for all departments except the school system and $200,000 for the schools) even though there are significant projects in the near future – such as interconnectivity of the Sheriff, Rescue Squad and Fire Departments, the water impoundment project and the school renovation project.

The meeting shifted to comments from the public with four citizens speaking. Keith Bourne again brought up the elimination of 2 additional officers from the Sheriff’s budget. He suggested, as he has in past meetings, that the source for funding these positions could be by eliminating the $250,000 deficit incurred by the Solid Waste Facility by raising the tipping fees.

Current Tipping Fees for Greene County Landfill

30 Gallon Single (household garbage) $1.00
50 Gallon Single (household garbage) $2.00
90 Gallon Single (household garbage) $3.00

Tammy Durrer continued this discussion stating that the citizens of Greene County should not be required to subsidize the Solid Waste Facility. Her research came up with a fact that is unique to Greene County vs. neighboring counties. Greene County allows citizens from other counties to dispose their trash with no premium being charged. Albemarle County for example charges an additional $10 for people outside their county.

Mallory Lamb presented information related to how understaffed Greene County is in the Sheriff’s Department. She presented data from Page County (14,000 citizens) and Patrick County (18,000) vs. Greene County’s population of 19,000 (counties that have similar population to Greene County). Here is how the number of reports, total deputies and deputies funded by the county compare (as presented by Lamb).

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Steve Smith

According to these figures, Greene County generates more reports with significantly fewer deputies. Lamb also suggested that eliminating the subsidizing of the Solid Waste Facility by raising rates and charging a premium for citizens from outside Greene County would fund two additional positions – the budget that Sheriff Smith presented. Per the chart above, the number of citizens per deputy in Greene County is more than twice that of Page and Patrick County’s.

The final adoption of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget is scheduled for May 8, 2018.

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

Citizens Ask Sheriff’s Budget Request Be Fully Funded

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.

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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

Fluvanna Proposed FY19 Budget has $400K Deficit

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The needle has slipped across the record known as the FY19 Fluvanna County budget.image

County administrator Steve Nichols briefed the Board of Supervisors on April 4th on updated numbers. The big shocker was the health insurance quote for next year is an increase of $435,000. There were some additional revenue numbers that meant at $0.929 real estate tax rate, the supervisors will still be $400,000 in the hole.

There were four tentative nods at $0.929 but unless the supervisors cut personnel or the school budget, they will need an even bigger increase.

At the public hearing on the tax rates, capital improvement plans and budget, one person spoke. Perrie Johnson, School Board member, spoke as a resident. She spoke in favor of funding the schools.

Since the last meeting in March, the county found another $68,000 in tax revenue. The expenditures grew as the supervisors approved a new pay raise policy that added another $32,000 to the budget.

The new policy is employees will receive any pay raise as long as they are on-board six months before the start of the raise and off probation period. The previous policy was must be on board before the start of the fiscal year and not receive a pay increase in the fiscal year the raise is given.

The vote to set the new policy was unanimous however supervisors were uncommitted to budget. They are slated to approve a budget on April 11.

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Patricia Eager

Patricia Eager (Palmyra District) ask if the board desires to pull more from the county savings, the fund balance. “You don’t want to go too far down that road,” replied Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).

That leaves either cutting expenses or raising the tax rate. Per state code, the highest rate the supervisors can institute is $0.945 [The rate advertised for public hearing].

One issue the county doesn’t project is significant new tax revenue coming in immediately to help next year’s budget. Expenses aren’t getting cheaper considering the vast majority of the county’s budget.

The silver lining is this year the county had two new debt service payments starting for FY19 that equated six cents. There is no expected debt payments to start in FY20 but also no significant debt retirements.

“We shouldn’t have the problems we are looking at this year,” said O’Brien.

There is hope the county will get a lower number for the health insurance increase. The issue is the county has had several high claims and have only been with the insurer for a single year.

The supervisors next meet on April 11 at 6 p.m to adopt a final budget. The budget calendar does have a possible overtime week of April 18.

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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Fluvanna Budget Discussion Includes New Business

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

It takes three to tango during budget season and the Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors is working its way to a final budget number.  During the latest work session the supervisors left with four nods on stopping at a real estate tax rate of $0.929 per $100 assessed. The current rate is $0.907.

The supervisors got a boost by additional tax values and increasing fees for items like trailers.

But to get to $0.929 and fund the schools its full request of $600,000, the supervisors will pull money from the county’s savings, the fund balance. It is a practice that is highly discouraged because the fund balance is typically used for one time expenses. But school staff is confident the school system will return a few hundred thousand to the fund balance when the current fiscal year is complete.

At the end of the March 28 work session, only Don Weaver (Cunningham District) didn’t give a nod to the budget but he said he would think about it.

Supervisors will have a public hearing on the budget on April 4 at 7 p.m.

Also on March 28 the supervisors held two public hearings on industrial sites in the Zion Crossroads area.

The first hearing was for the old Cosner Brothers location. M&M Salvage owns the property and trying to rezone the front part to I-1 and the back portion to I-2.

The property currently has a zoning violation issued against it for non-conforming use. The property is being used by contractors for the Colonial Gas Pipeline, per the owner. County staff has ruled it is being used as a contractor’s yard, which is a by-right use for an industrially zone property but the property is currently zoned A-1.

“I think you are able to consider this [a violation],” said Fred Payne, county attorney, to the supervisors.

Next to the property is a small cluster subdivision, Fox Glen. Residents continually complain to staff of work consistent with a contractor’s yard.

“People are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their property and it is being interrupted,” said Charles Hess, who lives in the subdivision.

Residents have complained of the loud noises and lights used to work early in the morning and evenings. One complaint listed a 1 a.m. start time.

“This I-1 and I-2 use next to the residential is less than ideal,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District).

Supervisors denied the rezoning 5-0. The owner filed an appeal of the non-conforming use to the Board of Zoning Appeals. BZA will hear the case on May 15.

LKQ is coming to town thanks to approval of its special use permit, 5-0. The supervisors added provisions to increase buffer areas near residents and restrictions on hours of operation.

The property was previously rezoned, at the direction of the Board of Supervisors, in December. The property is located behind the Cosner Brothers property and was once the back half of Cosner. It is 90 acres.

Residents of Fox Glen aren’t exactly touching it but the subdivision is about 200-300 feet from the property line. LKQ offered to increase its buffer from 50 feet from property line to 75 feet. The company will build an eight-foot fence and plant trees.

LKQ is a salvage yard company that recycles parts mostly from totaled cars. The company buys cars wholesale then goes through the cars to sell parts to repair cars.

The company will fill the property with stripped cars and once it needs more space, it crushes cars. Supervisors put restrictions on hours the company can work in yard to pull parts. Restrictions were also placed on crushing cars to six days a week. Work inside the building have no restrictions.

“This is a very clean facility,” said resident William Hensley, who toured a similar LKQ facility.

LKQ is expected to pay $200,000 to $300,000 in taxes. A penny of real estate taxes is less than $300,000.

“I would love to keep Fluvanna green,” said resident Tom Payne. “But we are going to have to keep Fluvanna with another green (money).”

Some neighbors still were not pleased of the salvage yard coming to town.

“Would you like your daughter or son or grandkids to live there?” said Jeff Wagner.

Katie Ward, said she purchased the neighboring property months after Fluvanna started negotiations with LKQ, “We were robbed to have our voices heard.”

Ward distributed flyers before the meeting of a FOIA request she had that showed the county in discussions with LKQ as far back as February 2017.

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will meet on April 4 for a regular session at 4 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. public hearing session on the budget.

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.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County