Tag Archives: Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors

Budget Woes Arrive in Fluvanna; Ullenbruch’s Support Erodes

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Well that did not take long. Just a week after Fluvanna County’s draft budget was announced, the fractures in the Budget Committee presentation appeared, with one committee member – new supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) backpedalling from his support for spending cuts and a large tax increase.

During the February 15th Board of Supervisors meeting, at which there was a paucity of substantive action, some budgetary outlines did emerge. Subsequent conversations showed even more fissures.

Both supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Ullenbruch opposed establishing a capital reserve fund that would allow for planned replacement and repair of county facilities and equipment. This was one of the more novel additions to the Capital Improvement Plan by the Budget Committee and is designed to institute a more professional approach to county management.

Mr. Weaver introduced a number of other budget cut proposals to the Board that would drastically reduce the need for major tax increase, but the supervisors took no action on his proposal. Mr. Ullenbruch sought to introduce into this budget operational funding necessary to support future capital improvement projects beyond FY 2013. Chairman Shaun Kenney politely informed him that such expenditures would be irrelevant until such time as the projects are undertaken.

Subsequent conversations with government officials revealed heightened frustration with the turn of events. Instead of working from an endorsed budget committee proposal to the supervisors, the backtracking began almost immediately. For example, small cuts to constitutional officers — less than $100,000 — now may be restored if one supervisor gets his way, according to one source.

Moreover there is a strong element of mistrust creeping into the whole process. One supervisor has accused the staff of duplicity, saying he “was duped”, according to a senior official. Moreover, Mr. Ullenbruch has publically informed his colleagues that he “probably knows more about the budget than anyone at this table”. Frequently he also has publically informed the staff that they are wrong on particular points.

Frustration also was evident when Ullenbruch could not get one colleague to support his “government reform committee” proposal. It went beyond the Board of Supervisors’ governing authority and his colleagues returned it to him for further work.

The supervisors will meet with the Fluvanna School Board on February 22nd for an initial budget discussion.

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William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna 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

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Fluvanna County Administrator Resigns Abruptly

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Jay ScudderMr. Jay Scudder, the Fluvanna County Administrator, resigned abruptly after the November 2nd Board of Supervisors public meeting. The Board had gone into closed session to discuss Mr. Scudder’s job performance after his initial year in the position.

According to multiple sources, a strong majority of the Board was not pleased with Scudder’s performance and voted not to retain him. Since Scudder was not fired for cause, he was eligible for a financial severance package but chose instead to resign.

The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, John Gooch, will be the acting county administrator. He met with the county staff Thursday morning to deliver the news.

According to multiple sources, Scudder alienated the staff almost from the outset of his tenure and never managed to gain their confidence. Supervisors became aware of the problem and also had their own difficulties with the administrator. Some believed as administrator, he was developing his own agenda and was not as supportive of the Board’s policies as he might have been.

Sources also indicate that Supervisors were particularly concerned about the upcoming budget and did not feel that Scudder had sufficient command of the budgetary issues facing the county. In addition, Scudder publically advocated for several acquaintances to receive consulting jobs with the county.  Several supervisors expressed disappointment in such advocacy. 

The last time Fluvanna advertised for a county administrator, it had a difficult time finding someone who was qualified for the position, and employed a management search firm. The Board is expected to do the same thing again.

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In the public Board meeting proper, supervisors:

· Unanimously approved the Thomas Jefferson Planning District’s legislative agenda for 2012;

· Approved 5-1 (Weaver dissenting) the economic development plan recommended by the County’s Economic Development Commission;

· Approved 5-1 (Weaver dissenting) the Pleasant Grove Park Master Plan; and,

· Were briefed on the County’s volunteer rescue squad’s inability to provide sufficient service to the county. Supervisors Kenney (Columbia) and Fairchild (Rivanna) will join a committee to find solutions to the problem, including the possibility of paid rescue squad members.

The Board’s next meeting will be held on November 16th, and it will consider amendments to the Planned Unit Development ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan regarding Urban Development Areas.

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William Des Rochers serves as Free Enterprise Forum’s Fluvanna County Field Officer.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization covering Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson county as well as the City of Charlottesville. 

If you find this update helpful, please consider financially supporting these efforts.

Fluvanna Opts for Five Supervisors

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

 

Fluvanna’s supervisors approved a five member redistricting plan at their July 6th meeting. Despite substantial and vocal citizen opposition, the Board voted four to two to reduce its size by one. Supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Chris Fairchild (Rivanna) voted against the plan. Mr. Fairchild’s seat will be eliminated.

Citizen opposition was strong. Three quarters of the fifteen speakers spoke against the proposed five member Board; most of them advocated increasing the representation to seven. There were two basic arguments: more representatives bring representation closer to the people, and the five seat Board was a politically motivated decision.

In its current alignment, the reduction to five certainly will make the Board more liberal. Fairchild is the second most conservative member of the Board and, assuming both supervisors John Gooch (Palmyra) and Mozelle Booker (Fork Union) win their reelections bids, they will offset conservative supervisors Weaver and Shawn Kenney (Columbia), giving the moderate Joe Chesser (Rivanna) the swing vote.

The supervisors also voted to provide each full-time county employee a $500 bonus. Employee salaries have been frozen for three years and the funds will come from the yet to be determined FY 2011 budget surplus.

After the meeting, the Board reconvened for a work session regarding their goals for the county. A majority of the Board listed economic development as the most important priority for the county. But the informal discussion quickly turned to the anticipated budget shortfalls over the coming years.

Supervisors rejected a proposal to create a blue ribbon commission to examine the issue and provide recommendations. Instead, they opted for a “supervisors and friends” concept wherein each supervisor would select a person to assist in the deliberations and provide guidance to the particular supervisor.

The seven hour session provided at least two clear signals: the future five member Board will address economic development issues and have to aggressively address upcoming budget deficits.

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William Des Rochers serves as Free Enterprise Forum’s Fluvanna County Field Officer.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization covering Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson county as well as the City of Charlottesville.  If you find this update helpful, please consider financially supporting these efforts.

Fluvanna Supervisors Set Budget, Tax Rates

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors set a real estate tax rate of $.57 per $100 of assessed value at it’s April 20th meeting. The board also set a personal property tax rate of $4.15 per $100 of assessed value. The vote was 4-2 in favor, with supervisors Chris Fairchild (Rivanna) and Don Weaver (Cunningham) voting against.

Prior to the final vote, the supervisors defeated a motion by Mr. Fairchild to set the rate at $.555; only Mr. Weaver supported that motion.

There were few surprises in the final budget, but one created some controversy. Supervisor Shawn Kenney (Columbia) succeeded on directing $250,000 towards what he termed economic development concerns. Mr. Kenney inserted $125,000 for post high school trade school scholarships, and $125,000 for “micro-lending” for small business in the county.

While the funds were allocated in the budget, there was no discussion on how the two economic development programs would be implemented. One supervisor, speaking off the record, doubted that the funds ever would be spent.

The supervisors kept local school funding at the FY 2011 level. But the board did provide one significant concession: unexpended school funds returned to the county at the end of this fiscal year will be returned to the School Board for FY 2012. Present estimates suggest that figure could be on the order of $600,000.

In other matters, supervisors:

· Approved the proposed five year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP;

· Approved a Verizon request for a cell tower in the Columbia district;

· Deferred a change to county ordinances to require sidewalks in industrial and commercial areas; and,

· Adopted the VDOT recommended secondary road construction and improvement plan.

The Board’s next meeting will be held on May 4th.

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William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Get an Earful

 

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Representative

Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors held an all day/evening meeting to perform numerous housekeeping chores and receive public comments on the proposed FY2012 budget and tax rates. They got an earful.

Public comments regarding the proposed tax rates were sharply divided. Those opposed to any tax increases cited the current poor economic conditions, the hardships any increase would inflict upon fixed income residents, and the difficulties many already have in paying taxes.

One speaker, citing Office of the Treasurer statistics, said that the tax delinquency rate amounts to twenty five percent of all tax notices sent out in the county.

Those who favored the proposed tax rate largely came from the school community in the county. They argued that the schools should be funded fully to the School Board request (adding approximately another $1 million in the school budget).

The supervisors advertised a real estate tax rate of $.57 per $100 of assessed value. Currently, the rate is $.54. The effect of the increase is:

  •  A 5.5 percent increase over FY2011;
  •  Approximately a $1 million revenue increase – one penny increase in the tax rate amounts to about $350,000; and,
  •  A $75 increase in the annual tax bill for a residence and land assessed at $250,000.

Separately, the supervisors are considering a larger increase in the personal property tax. Currently the rate is $3.85 and the Board has advertised a rate of $4.15, a 7.8 percent increase. If enacted, the new rate would:

  • Increase revenue by approximately $500,000 – or the equivalent of $.014 of real estate tax;
  • Increase the tax on a $20,000 vehicle by $44 (assuming it qualifies for state tax relief), and,
  • Be in the middle of the nine jurisdictions in the region.

The Board also plans to increase the personal property administrative fees.

The Board also heard comments on a proposed $59.3 million budget for FY2012. Most speakers either urged increased funding for schools or complimented the supervisors for holding the line as much as possible. The budget increases total expenditures by 2.2 percent, most of which is debt service. Highlights of the budget include:

  • No increase in the county contribution to education – it would remain at the FY2011 level of $13.7 million;
  • $250,000 for a real estate reassessment in 2012; and,
  • An additional $606,000 for high school debt service.

The Board will make its final decisions at its next meeting on April 20th.

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William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna’s Budget End Game

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Once again, it will come down to the schools, and how much the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors wants to spend on education in the FY 2012 budget that starts on July 1st. Over the past few days, there have been developments that have brought the issues into starker relief.

Fluvanna County Administrator Jay Scudder has circulated a revised  staff budget that holds the real estate tax rate at $.54 per $100 of assessed value, exclusive of debt service costs and any education funding increases. The previous budget recommendation included a $.04 tax increase.

Mr. Scudder made several new recommendations, including:                                 

· Increase the personal property tax by $.20 to $4.00 per $100 value;

· Fund the county real estate reassessment costs through a $250,000 drawdown in the county’s “savings account” – the undesignated fund balance;

· Collecting the equivalent of two cents in overdue real estate taxes; and,

· Closing the county landfill and deferring hiring an economic development coordinator.

Separately, the School Board is expected to ask for at least an increase of $1 million for operating expenditures; but the number may be as high as $1.9 million. A majority of the School Board would like to restore pay cuts ($900 thousand) instituted during the current fiscal year. At weeks end there was a report that the School Board may back down. The school budget proposal will be presented on March 16th to the supervisors.

School Board wants aside, supervisors will face a difficult decision on funding school debt. Funding debt alone will add several cents to the tax rate, and the Board also is considering adding another two cents to the tax rate to fund the new high school’s operations.

The supervisors currently are divided over addition funding for the School Board requests. Reportedly, several members actually would like to cut current funding levels, especially in light of the large tax hike needed to fund current school debt.

Also, drawing down the fund balance to pay for a reassessment and anticipating two cents worth of additional revenue ($750,000) from back tax collection will strike some as a bit of a contrived fix, brought in at the last minute to minimize a needed tax increase.

Supervisors expect to set the advertized tax rate at their next meeting on March 16th.

William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna’s Budget Morass

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

 

Things just keep getting worse for Fluvanna’s beleaguered taxpayers and Board of Supervisors. At its March 2nd meeting, the Board revealed that it did not realize that funds were not set aside for debt repayment for the fiscal year 2011 budget. As a result, taxes will have to be increased by a greater amount that originally thought, just to pay for debt service.

Some background. When the supervisors issued bonds for the new high school, they agreed to a novel repayment plan that would defer principal payments for several years. This would, according to the proponents at the time, allow the county to phase in moderate annual tax increases and avoid taxpayer sticker shock.

But there would be a price to pay. Several million dollars would be added to the total bond cost. This plan ultimately was not fully funded so the county now faces millions in additional debt costs, and the prospect of a $.15 tax hike in real estate taxes in FY2012 just for debt payments; currently the tax rate is $.54 per $100 of assessed value.

There is a certain “deer-in-the-headlight” look about the Board right now. It has dawned on the supervisors that there is virtually no money left for anything. The current staff budget proposal allows for virtually no increases at all [save a few thousand dollars for the library]. The only other planned budget increases are for a reassessment in 2011/12, and a larger contribution for juvenile justice. The “savings account” is at an historic low.

Notwithstanding the dire financial straits, the Board did approve spending an additional $500,000 for two projects: design work for a new Fork Union firehouse, and remodeling of the first floor of the old Carysbrook library for addition office space for the Social Services department.

Budget discussions will continue through March.

William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisors Set Special Meeting

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Over the past weekend, Fluvanna supervisors set a special meeting for Monday evening (7:00 pm Fluvanna County Courthouse) to discuss the proposed high school bond issue.  Two members are needed to force a special meeting and sources indicate that the two more conservative members:  Gene Ott (Rivanna) and Don Weaver (Cunningham) pressed the issue.

Both Ott and Weaver want to have another look at the bond proposal made by Davenport and Company, the county’s bond advisers.  Ott has in the past cited a potential conflict of interest since the bond adviser is paid when the county uses it to place the bonds.

The text of the required announcement states:  “Based on the current economic situation affecting the bond market and interest rates, this meeting is called to determine if the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors needs more information for (sic) an independent financial expert on the bond market status and to seek answers as to the most desirable time to enter the market place for the High School bond interest rates and to consider delaying the offering, sale and issuance of such bonds pending receipt of such advice.”

According to one well placed official, the supervisors are unlikely to take any action that would delay going to the market which now is scheduled for December 1st.

Supervisors Meeting of November 19, 2008

Mr. Bill Hughes, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 8169 (Scottsville), with several members in attendance, briefed the Board on major renovations and upgrade to the Post facility.  The United Way designated the renewal as a “Day of Caring” project. 

Accomplished entirely through volunteer labor and donations, Fluvanna county staff and numerous local businesses donated time and material.  Mr. Hughes noted that for the first time the facility now had hot water, and estimated that the donated time and materials amounted to at least $75,000.

The Post presented Certificates of Appreciation to the county staff that participated in the project.

School Bond Update

County Administrator G. Cabell Lawton IV informed the supervisors that he anticipates going to the bond market on December 1st to secure the funds necessary for the new high school.  Mr. Lawton also expects to close on the funds by the end of the year.

About a dozen citizens spoke again regarding the bond issue and only two supported going forward at the present time.  Other comments ranged from suggesting just a short-term deferral until the markets stabilize to outright cancellation of the bond solicitation.  Over the past two Board meetings, there has been considerable public comment urging the Board to reconsider its decision to go forward with the bond issue, especially given the current uncertain economic climate and the impact it is having on personal finances.

Prior to the discussion, the county administrator told the supervisors that he has instructed staff to develop contingency plans for budget reductions at both the five and ten percent levels.  The county’s next real estate tax deadline is December 5th and the Administration will have a better idea of the county’s finances by then, according to Lawton.

As of the meeting, county officials still were confident that the bonds could be sold at an interest ate at or lower than the Board set limit of six percent.

Other Board Actions

In other actions, the Board:

·        Was updated on potential improvements to the Human Services building at Carysbrook.  A complete renovation and new construction could cost as much as $4 million, or it could be phased in and cost as little as $1.3 million initially for the old high school building renovations;

·        Approved the creation of a Central Virginia Regional Jail Authority, which would have the ability to secure funds through its own borrowing (the Authority’s creation must be approved by all member governments);

·        Approved a county investment policy that will provide guidance to the Treasurer regarding the investment of the county’s general funds, capital project funds, and bond repayment account;

·        Appointed supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Marvin Moss (Columbia) to a new Energy Performance Contracting Committee, which will provide guidance regarding performance based contracts for the county’s energy related projects; and,

·        Set two work sessions to review the Comprehensive Plan — Saturday, February 7th, 2009 (9:00 am to 4:00 pm) and Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 (4:00 pm to 6:00 pm).

The Board’s next regular meeting will be held on December 3rd, at 2:00 pm in the County Courthouse.