By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The Greene County Board of Supervisors took the final step to approve going forward with a general obligation school bond not to exceed $28.16 million at their August 22nd meeting. . Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) will purchase the bonds by the fall of this year.
The agenda item was presented during a public hearing – but no one showed up to comment. Chairperson Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) took this to be a favorable commentary on the open process for the past two years leading up to tonight. She also indicated that she has received only positive feedback related to the project. Former Chairperson Bill Martin (Stanardsville) echoed the same sentiment and that the project will be good for the community and the school system.
Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) is the Board’s liaison to the schools and has been involved in the process over the past 30 months. He further stated that high schools are the most expensive schools to build and the project to renovate the high school and other schools in the Greene County School System is the most efficient way to provide quality educational facilities. At the same time, the study was a forward looking process with a look toward 20 years into the future.
Finally, Flynn said that the best way she could summarize the process is to quote Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) – “do it once and do it right”.The gross cost of the project of $28.16 million will cost nearly $41 million ($1.63 million x 25 years) assuming an interest rate of 3 % over 25 years. The accumulated Capital Fund Balance of $2.814 million represents excess tax revenue that taxpayers have paid in previous years. When Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) was asked if these funds should be used to help pay for the project, he indicated that Tracy Morris, Finance Director and Stephanie Deal, Treasurer indicated that these funds should be released over a period of time and not in a lump sum.
This raises the question – why?
Herring also indicated that the project will solicit quotes from multiple vendors and the project may cost less than the architects estimated – $28.16 million.
Logically, spending the $2.814 million at the beginning of the project would reduce the need for new tax revenue. Plus this is tax revenue already collected from taxpayers. One explanation not to spend it all up-front, has been that the unspent capital needs to be held back for unexpected capital requirements. That may be true to some degree, but it seems excessive to some observers.
The other comment in response to spending the $2.814 million excess capital is it would draw down cash too far. This seems to beg the question, how low should the cash balance be allowed to get down to – especially right before personal property taxes are collected in June and December (the lowest points each year).
The county has a Reserve Fund target, which includes cash and all assets which their auditors have recommended. But you can’t write checks against total assets, you have to have cash in the bank. As nationally known financial advisor Dave Ramsey advises – you need 3-6 months of living expenses on hand for emergencies.Perhaps Greene County could look to live by Dave’s advice.
If the Board is so inclined, they could easily agree on a transparent Cash Reserve Fund calculation so that a clear, well thought out policy can be developed.
Such a policy could provide the data to clearly determine how much cash could be spent to pay for the school project from excess capital funds. The concerns raised by the Treasurer and Finance Director are testament that there needs to be some safeguard – but it should be formalized. The current board may not spend too much but who is to say that a future board may be too aggressive and get the county back on the edge of bankruptcy.
The final question is – who determines if spending is to be made from the excess capital funds that the school system has accumulated. Per Herring, while the funds are designated for school capital funds, it is part of the overall county reserve position.
Currently, the determination of the usage of the excess capital reserve has not been decided. This needs to be clearly defined so that funds can be easily consumed when needed and done in conjunction with a Cash Reserve Policy so that the county doesn’t revert back to where it was several decades ago – nearly bankrupt.
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
Photo Credit: Greene county, Dave Ramsey
By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
In the quickest meeting in recent memory, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved a new restaurant in the Cunningham District.
Fluvanna Supervisors typically hold a 4 p.m. meeting on the first Wednesday and a 7 p.m. meeting on the third Wednesday of each month. August has just one meeting scheduled on the first Wednesday as it typically is a slower time of the year.
The afternoon session had appointments to two boards, a budget amendment, reclassification of an open maintenance position and two appropriations to the Department of Social Services.
The evening session had just two public hearings, for the same property. The property is located on Route 6, near the intersection of The Cross Road (Route 733). Interestingly, the property was originally zoned R-1 in the 1970s when the county adopted zoning. It is only 300 feet wide.
The applicant asked to rezone from R-1 to A-1, which was granted unanimously. The applicant then also asked for a special use permit to operate a small restaurant. It was also approved unanimously.
No one from the public, other than the applicant, was present at the public hearing.
The earlier session finished up some fiscal housekeeping for action the supervisors took in late 2014. The supervisors voted to refinance two loan payments. It changed the FY15 budget by more than 1 percent, thus requiring public hearing and formal action on the budget changes.
The public hearing was held the meeting prior but Don Weaver (Cunningham District) asked staff to include a total recap of the 2014 action. The refinance of the 2005 courthouse bond saved the county $117,822 over the course of the debt. The refinance of the 2006 library bond saved the county $217,712 over the life of the loan.
The Department of Social Services requested two FY16 supplemental appropriations from state and federal funds. One of the appropriations allowed the hiring of a new benefit specialist, part time to help reduce the Medicaid backlog. The second one allows for additional overtime to help with the aforementioned backlog. No new money was expended. The DSS budget provided the required match.
Supervisors are looking to save money by spending more on a maintenance position. They voted to raise the pay but also increase the requirements of an open position. The net salary difference might be a few thousand a year, but the position now requires a specialty. This will allow the county to stop more costly contract services of the hired specialty, whatever it might be.
Chairperson Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) was absent from the meeting so vice chair Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) handled the gavel. Booker, on planned vacation, is expected back for the September meetings. Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) was present for the 4 p.m. session but left before the 7 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.
By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer
Within days of receiving an impressive financial report setting the Greene County’s reserve fund at $16.2 million, the Board of Supervisors learned that a major county employer, Video Gaming Technology (VGT), will close its doors, meaning the loss of as many as 250 jobs and $129,276 in business and personal property tax.
How that closing might affect the county is uncertain, but for now the county is in excellent financial condition, according to financial audit reports supervisors received from Robinson, Farmer and Cox Associates at their meeting last week. Here are the highlights of a comparison of fiscal year data through the end of June 2011:
- Greene County debt reserve has dropped 79.3%
- Unreserved funds have risen from $.02 million to $16.2 million
- As a percent of the annual budget, unreserved funds rose from 0.4% to 31.5%
- The general fund balance has gone from $3.3 million to $16.3 million – a 394% increase
- Net assets have increased 125 percent
These are impressive reserves for a county that only 10 years ago was borrowing money to pay bills. Now supervisors must decide how much to keep in reserve and where and how to spend the remainder. There’s no shortage of choices, as Greene County has some challenges ahead.
In addition to the closing of VGT, the county faces significant decreases in state funding, which will particularly affect the school budget, and a decrease in property taxes with the upcoming property reassessment. Added to that is the impending capital projects and current and future needs, including water impoundment, which will surely be needed, based on continuing growth in the Ruckersville area including the supervisors recent rezoning approval planned unit development (PUD) on Route 29 north that will bring townhomes to Greene County.
Supervisors are in the midst of the 2012/13 budget process and currently reviewing the capital improvement program. Stay tuned for more developments.
Pauline Hovey 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
By. Neil Williamson
Faced with decreasing state revenue and decreasing property values, localities are now preparing to start their budget discussions. No where is the question of where to start more pronounced than in Albemarle County.
Recognizing the need for steady revenue, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Boyd believes the discussion should start at a 3.5 cent tax increase which would result in the average 2009 tax bill being the same dollar amount (due to decreased assessment) as in 2008. This would result in the same level of funding for County operations as in FY08. He then would consider programs/initiatives that had been planned but not yet funded by the Board of Supervisors and add programs/initiatives until reaching a point that the budget garners four affirmative votes.
Vice Chairman David Slutzky sees the starting point differently. He believes the starting budget should accurately reflect all the approved Board initiatives that were included previously in the five year plans and other discussions. Using this methodology, the Board could then cut program by program until they reached a tax rate that would garner four affirmative votes.
Over the years, The Free Enterprise Forum has never taken a position on a tax rate in any locality, nor do we plan to.
This question of how to build the budget, however, is most intriguing. There seems to be an interesting unstated undercurrent that if you start high you may end up higher than if you start low. Without attempting to relive too much of my Organizational Communication/Psychology classes of the early 1980s and based on my five years of observation of Boards of Supervisors, I believe there may be some merit to this unstated undercurrent of “start high to end high”.
In either case, clear, distinct votes will likely be required for each of Albemarle County’s “commitments”. Just last month we heard the Joint Task Force on Affordable Housing ask for permanent, dedicated income stream to support affordable housing.
This week’s day meeting (12/3) of the Albemarle Board may provide a preview of budget meetings to come. Late in the meeting is a discussion of the five-year financial work Plan including the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). A quick review of the programs “on or outside the bubble” in the CIP suggests many in the community will have opinions regarding the disposition of the infrastructure spending.
Whether you start from the bottom and work up or start from the top and work down, in these tough economic times difficult budget decisions will need to be made.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes ALL government spending, regardless of economic conditions or funding source, is worthy of such exact fiscal scrutiny each and every budget cycle.