Tag Archives: Greene County Board of Supervisors

Greene BOS Budget Balancing Act: Capital Needs, Reserve Fund,Tax Rates, Services

By. Brent Wilson

At the March 12th meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors   the discussion centered around the Capital Improvement Plan vs. the growth in the Reserve Fund. The BOS had previously approved the county’s CIP in total but had struggled to identify which projects would receive funding in the next 3 to 5 years.

Several projects were immediately identified as needing to be accomplished in the near future – a Rescue Squad building and an expansion to the high school cafeteria (there are four lunch periods starting at 10:42 am due to the lack of space)  – all agreed these need to happen soon. One possible source of funding for the school cafeteria expansion is by retiring of existing school debt.

The BOS discussed whether the new task force on CIPs should handle the prioritization or should a request go back to each department to sort out their critical needs in the next 5 year. Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) proposed that the BOS request all departments to provide back a list of 5 year must have projects with written justification for each project. This was agreed by all 5 supervisors.

The discussion moved on to how to pay for the projects and whether the Reserve Fund could be a source of funds for some of the projects. Last year the BOS set a policy on how much should be maintained in the Reserve Fund, funded the schools budget request and then earmarked the remaining additional money in the Reserve Fund to various projects.

The Reserve Fund has continued to grow and exceeds the target level by over $4 million. Supervisor Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) suggested reviewing what balance should be left in the Reserve Fund and then use any amount beyond that to help fund the capital projects that come back from all departments. Chairman Frydl questioned if the BOS wanted to modify the Reserve Fund policy that has already been set at 15% of the annual budget plus one month operating expenses. He suggested that the departmental requests for the next 5 years be compared to the excess Reserve Fund and if additional funds are required then the Board would have to consider a tax increase would be required to fund all projects.

Mr. Peyton said that the CIP is a wish list – “a Sears Catalogue” and he objected to additional taxes for capital projects but he would agree to pull down the Reserve Fund for the water and sewer project. Supervisor Davis Lamb  (Ruckersville) expressed concern about drawing down the Reserve Fund to zero and wanted to avoid going back to borrowing funds to be able to pay ongoing obligations.

Chairman Frydl commented that the preliminary audit has indicated the Reserve Fund is now approximately 32% of the annual budget of $53.5 million or $17.1 million. This compares to a minimum balance of 15% of $53.5 million or $8.0 million plus one month’s budget of $4.5 million for a total of $12.5 million Reserve Fund target. Therefore the Reserve Fund has grown, based on preliminary audit, by approximately $4.6 million since the Reserve Fund was set last spring.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) expressed concern that he did not want the county to have to borrow to fund their needs. Discussion followed as to whether all excess Reserve Funds should be allocated to projects or not. This lead to a discussion of the property tax rate, given that the property assessments are expected to decline.

Supervisor Peyton stated that he would not increase taxes but would cut spending to balance the budget, the decision is “easy for me”.  When Mr. Peyton was asked for a clarification whether he meant he wouldn’t support raising the tax rate (generating less tax revenue) or raising total property taxes (equal to that of the prior year) that an equalization rate would provide, he indicated that he opposed an increase in the tax rate. He further explained that raising the tax rate to equalize tax revenue would cause some property taxes to increase and some to decrease and he didn’t believe that was fair.

Chairman Frydl summarized that the BOS needs the list of projects required to be done in the next 5 years. At that time, the BOS will be able to determine if there are enough funds for all projects by using the excess Reserve Fund. If more funds are required then the BOS will need to decide if additional tax revenue is required to fund all projects. He also noted that Albemarle County has acted to advertise an increase in their tax rate to equalize tax revenue since their property values have declined, similar to what Greene County is facing.

The key issue facing Greene County as it listens to each department’s budget request  is that the current tax rate is generating revenue to provide funding for operating budgets and growth in the Reserve Fund which is being used as a source of capital fund.

If the property tax rate is not equalized then there will be less tax revenue coming into the county which will result in less funds flowing to the Reserve Fund.  A decision will have to be made whether to maintain current levels of operating expenses by tapping into the reserve funds or use those funds for capital projects. There will not be enough revenue to do both.

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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

Greene BOS Works With Citizens

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

The June 26 Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting provided several examples of how private citizens working with government can achieve community advancement.

Ethyle Cole Giuseppe, 92, was recognized for her continued generosity to the Greene County Park.  Last year, Giuseppe donated the funds for construction of a comfort station at the county park.  At this meeting she agreed to pay for a basketball court at the park which will allow Greene County to delay expenditures for the park until next fiscal year and start down the list of priorities to further enhance the park.

The renovation of the second story of the Greene County owned library building  is ahead of schedule and will be ready for Fall, 2012 semester of Piedmont Virginia Community College,  in the Eugene Giuseppe Center (this project, as well as the furnishings for the library, were also accomplished with significant private support).  While the second floor has remained vacant since the library opened in 2003, Chairman “Buggs” Peyton commended the foresight to construct the library building with the second floor that is now ready to provide PVCC classes in Stanardsville.

Roy Dye of Stanardsville Area Revitalization (*STAR*) reported thatstar logo grants to renovate the downtown Stanardsville streetscapes are making progress . All right of way required have been donated by property owners – some were only asking for 6 inches to allow wider sidewalks. Documents have been submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for review. After approval by VDOT, the project will be advertised to make selection of vendors with work scheduled to begin as early as this fall.

Considering recent discussions of an oversized reserve fund, it’s easy to forget that not long ago, Greene County was nearly bankrupt. In those days, Greene regularly borrowed funds in order to meet payroll and other obligations before the next property tax semiannual payment.  Strict financial controls were enacted to change this practice.  One BOS meeting during this time featured a constitutional officer requesting, and being denied, funds to replace a dying computer (>$1,000) outside the normal budget cycle.

The fiscal restraint that previous Boards of Supervisors utilized is evident as Greene now boasts a large financial reserve, far beyond the minimum recommended by their auditing firm.  Even as they accrued this reserve, Greene continued to continued to advance important capital projects at the same time.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors are successfully leveraging both corporate and private citizen support to enhance the quality of life for all citizens. While unfunded state mandates continue to negatively impact Greene’s budget, their strategic capital investments as well as a business friendly environment have created a new fiscal reality for local government.

How the Board will deal with this new reality will be the discussion in their next Board meeting on July 10th.  The Board has heard from some citizens advocating for maintaining a larger than required reserve, some wishing to spend down a portion of the reserve and still others that consider the reserve to be an indication they have been over taxed. 

Will Greene County create endorse a written financial reserve policy? 

How will that policy impact scheduled capital improvement projects? 

Will such a policy create a financial safety net to avoid raising taxes?

Once again the Free Enterprise Forum has more questions than answers.

Stay tuned.

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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

FCI’s Greene County Development Proposal Narrowly Approved, 3-2

By Pauline Hovey, Field Officer

After a two-hour public hearing on Tuesday (2/28) evening, the Greene County Board of Supervisors approved, by a vote of 3-2, a controversial planned unit development (PUD) on Route 29 north that will bring townhomes to Greene County.

“This will put us in a unique market position that nobody’s serving right now,” Steve Jones, chief operating officer of Fried Companies, Inc., said after the meeting. “We think this is a better project that will provide more market diversity. There already are many single family options out there.”

The applicant BlueMarle LLC/Missus LLC/Fried Companies’ had requested a rezoning that would allow the developer to change its model from an approved 800 unit by-right subdivision to a PUD of 1,180 dwelling units, to include no more than 600 single family homes and 580 townhomes. This request has raised the ire and interest of local residents and businesses over the past several months, attested by the standing-room-only crowd that turned out for the public hearing.

Of particular interest here and in the Board’s recent denial of Greenecroft’s application to amend proffers is that both decisions are in opposition to the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The Planning Commission had unanimously recommended approval of Greenecroft’s request, which also would have brought townhomes to the county and created less controversy among residents, and unanimously recommended denial of the BlueMarle/Fried Companies’ request.

About a dozen people on either side of the issue addressed the board, with many local business owners supporting the rezoning request because of the anticipated increase in their business and boon to the local economy the additional homes would bring. Referring to Fried Companies’ proposal to build the additional 380 homes over a 20-year period, Alan Pyle, owner of The Lafayette Inn in Stanardsville, said, “The question is, what do we have to gain for the extra 19 new homes per year?” Pyle noted the developer already has approval for 800 by-right homes on that site, so the traffic will increase regardless. But, he argued, if supervisors did not approve this PUD, they would not only not receive needed proffers but would eventually pass on the county’s water and sewer financial needs to taxpayers.

Pyle’s sentiments were echoed by other business interests such as the owners of the local Dunkin Donuts, Fabio’s Restaurant, and Anytime Fitness; Jim Kuznar of the Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association; Harry Daniel, principal of the Greene County Tech Center; and Don Pamenter representing the Economic Development Authority board.

Those speaking against the rezoning were concerned about the additional traffic, the condition and safety of Preddy Creek Road, the increased need for fire and rescue services, the impact on the school system, and the county’s growing water and sewer needs. Some suggested the board take time to consider all options, including additional proffers, before approving the request.

“The capacity of the sewer plant will be reached without these additional homes,” warned Andrea Wilkinson, of the Ruckersville Citizens Council.

carl_schmittFormer supervisor Carl Schmitt had several issues with the proposal, including the unneeded increased residential potential, noting that Greene County “is second only to Albemarle in population density,” and the public water supply. “We don’t even have the permit application approved yet,” he said of the water impoundment project. “Few people appreciate the difficult situation we’re in.”

Based on the number of townhomes expected to be built as a result of the rezoning, the applicant estimates the county will receive $7.6 million in tap fees. This amount is based on Greene’s current $20,000 combined water and sewer hookup fees. Proffers offered are $1.6 million in transportation improvements, three acres of land dedicated to public use, $570,000 in cash, and $1,500 per single family unit for the first three units. The developer is proffering a connector road running east to west, from Preddy Creek Road at its intersection with Autumn Oaks Lane through the development emptying onto Route 29. Although Jones said they would build the connector road, which was recommended in a traffic impact study, before any homes are constructed, the road is contingent upon VDOT’s approval of a traffic signal and entrance location on Route 29. Jones argued it would relieve the congestion on Matthew Mill Road that residents experience during commuter hours. “VDOT supports this connector road and is on record as saying the improvements they’re making to 607 will not be enough to alleviate traffic,” he said.

But local residents challenged that claim and many were particularly concerned about adding any vehicles to the already dangerous Preddy Creek Road—the site of numerous accidents and a few deaths. Greg Krystyniak, a licensed engineer and resident, expressed concern about the road’s current condition and suggested more proffers were needed to fix the road before allowing any increased traffic.

After the lengthy hearing, Supervisors Eddied Deane (at-large) and David Cox (Monroe) voted without hesitation to approve the project. Chairman Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville), despite noting some positive considerations about the project, voted against it, as did Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville).

jim_frydlWhen the vote came to Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway), he wavered before approving the project. When the Free Enterprise Forum asked him later about his hesitation, Frydl said, “I thought it was the least bad of two bad choices. It was a tradeoff for the county to get some things we need from this decision and obtain more than we’ll lose. With the sewer plant debt looming and the future water impoundment, this will help offset payments. We’ll get 15 to 20 water sewer taps at a time with the townhomes.”

At the same time, Frydl is concerned about the board not following any written cash proffer policy and handling this on an individual basis. “It’s setting a precedent, making it difficult to make such decisions in the future,” he said.

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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

Photo Credits: Greene County

Greene County Elects 3 New Board Members

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

With two incumbents out the door, replaced by citizens without significant board level governing experience, Tuesday’s election (11/8)  has not only altered the composition of the Greene County  Board of Supervisors; there is the potential it could change the county’s direction as well.

Greene County is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors, four elected to a four-year term by citizens from each of the electoral districts and one elected county wide as the at-large supervisor.  Slightly more than 45 percent of voters turned out to elect three supervisors—all of whom are either natives or long-time residents.

catalanoAs Chairman Steve Catalano (photo left), whose term expires in December, expressed, “My only concern with  three new board members coming on at one time is the first budget.  It is hard for anyone to walk into a new experience and deal with a $60 million budget two months later.”

Eddie Deane, well-known in the county for his 25 years of charity fundraising through his local band The Deanes, won the only at-large seat over incumbent Carl Schmitt with 55 percent of the votes. Although he recognizes the challenge involved and said he has “a lot to learn,” Deane seems more concerned that many residents are unaware of county decisions and regulations that affect them. Deane hopes to use his position and his familiar face to encourage citizens to be more informed and involved. Also on his agenda: make the county “more business friendly and try our best to satisfy businesses within regulations.

“I’m excited about the responsibility of serving the county and inspiring the citizens to be more informed about their local government,” Deane said. “I’ve been elected to serve as supervisor, but I think it’s a collaborative effort between me and the citizens to work together for the betterment of the community.”

In the Monroe district, David Cox, a 39-year county resident and former dairy farmer, ousted Mike Skeens. Davis Lamb, who currently serves on the Planning Commission and is the only new supervisor with county government experience, won the newly redistricted Ruckersville district seat.

Catalano, who served as chairman for eight consecutive years during his 12-year term, advised the new board, “It is incumbent on the chairman to lead his board through this time, and incumbent on the new members to balance their election promises with reality.  That is the challenge for new members.”

Catalano had decided not to seek reelection before his at-large seat was eliminated due to redistricting. As he leaves the board, Catalano added, “My biggest hope is that the water impoundment project continues through the process of obtaining the permit and securing the property. This is an important piece of the puzzle and is essential to the future self-sufficiency of our county.”

Maintaining a high reserve cash position is also important, according to Catalano, who helped turn the county’s precarious financial situation around during his tenure. Based on the county’s current condition, Catalano said he is “satisfied that our county is positioned well for its future.”

The new Board will take office in January.

Pauline Hovey is the Greene 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

photo credit: Greene County

Apathy Increases Voter Value

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

Yes, Virginia this is an election year.

Poor Virginia – Every year somebody is running for something and this year, if historical trends hold true – your vote is even more important. 

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking towardBallot Box November 2012 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County building or City Hall.

2011 is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

According to Bill McClintock of GOP Wins [as quoted in Campaigns and Elections Magazine]:

the high point for voter participation is the presidential election cycle, which sees about 73 percent of the state’s voters turn out. Next is the gubernatorial election, when about 49 percent turn out. After that comes the non-presidential federal election (Senate or Congressional seat), which sees about 45% turnout. Finally, there’s a year like 2011 when the state legislature tops the ticket and the turnout plummets to a meager 33 percent. Generalizing across states—or even within states—is difficult because individual factors will obviously impact turnout. But it’s clear that turnout falls dramatically in these years. Emphasis added – nw

From the left leaning leaning My Fire Dog Lake blog discussing the 2009 election “Off” Year election (with a gubernatorial race) turnout:

Political writer Paul Loeb summarizes the voter turnout as follows: “In exit polls, Virginia voters under 30 dropped from 21% of the 2008 electorate to 10% this year, and from 17% to 9% in New Jersey. Minority voting saw a similar decline. In both states, over half the Obama voters of a year ago simply stayed home, more than a million people in both Virginia and New Jersey. With this collapse of the Democratic base, even relatively modest Republican turnout could carry the day, and did.” Emphasis added – nw

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.

Albemarle County 2007 Rivanna District’s Board of Supervisor’s election, 4,667 votes were cast and Incumbent Ken Boyd beat challenger Marcia Joseph by 149 votes.

The Free Enterprise Forum anticipates higher than average turnout in Greene County and Louisa County.  Both have contested races for retiring Constitutional Officers (Sheriff in Greene and Treasurer in Louisa).  The last time there was an open Sheriff’s race in Greene (2003) there were 5 candidates and voter turnout was over 47%. 

In addition Greene County has adjusted their Board of Supervisors to four magisterial districts and one at large member (formerly 2).  The new “Ruckersville” District features a four way race.  The last multiple candidate race for a Greene Board of Supervisor the decision was made by less than 100 votes.

Yes Virginia, there is an election in 2011.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Yes Virginia will hold an election on November 8th; the question is will you be a part of it? 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

 

Eight Greene County Supervisor Hopefuls to Face off Wednesday

By. Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

The eight candidates running for the Greene County Board of Supervisors will present their views at a candidates forum on September 28th, at 7:00 p.m., at the William Monroe High School Raymond C. Dingledine III Performing Arts Center. Cosponsored by the Greene County Chamber of Commerce and the Free Enterprise Forum, this nonpartisan event will give voters a chance to meet the four candidates running for the newly redistricted Ruckersville district as well as the incumbents and challengers to the Monroe district and at-large seats.

“Clearly, the success of our community depends heavily on the vision and leadership of our Board of Supervisors,” said Robbie Morris, president of the Chamber.  “We strongly encourage all of our citizens to have a voice in our county’s future by coming to the forum so they can make informed decisions on November 8th.”

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson will moderate this free event, which features formal questions regarding the candidate’s individual visions for the future of Greene County.  Questions regarding economic development, comprehensive planning, community infrastructure, fiscal responsibilities, and the county’s projected future are all anticipated.

“We are excited and proud to lead this important discussion,” Williamson said.  “The very design of our program, from the location, the questions, the format, as well as the meet and greet session at the end, promotes two-way communication between the candidates and the voters.  In local races, political labels are not as clear, so it is important voters learn where each candidate stands on the issues.”

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded nonprofit public policy organization focused on issues of regional importance in Central Virginia.

Greene Supervisors Attempt to Set Reserve Fund Policy

By Pauline Hovey

Facing an unusually high reserve fund of 26 percent (as measured against operating budget), the Greene County Board of Supervisors held a workshop last Tuesday hoping to put fund policies in place that would ensure the county remains fiscally sound. Supervisors found themselves wrestling with what percentage of the budget should be established as a set policy for the reserve fund. This is an enviable position for any county, but is especially significant for Greene, which has completely turned itself around over the last several years, going from deficit spending to meet payroll to its current above-average amount in reserves.

“It’s only been in the last year or so that an honest reserve fund has been there,” said Carl Schmitt (at-large), “and we’ve come far enough in improving our county’s financial condition that it’s time for us to consider what we want to do as a norm.”

Supervisors could not agree, however, on whether that amount should be 10%, 15%, or some other amount. “If we do all agree on what would nominally be an acceptable amount to have in reserve, it will give us a base amount to plan to have in the budget for when an emergency arises, like what just happened in Louisa,” Schmitt said, “which is literally what the reserve fund is for.”

In our research, the Free Enterprise Forum has not found a hard and fast rule regarding fund balance direction.  Anecdotally, we are aware of localities with 8% and higher fund balance as a goal.

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has made fund balance discussions a part of their Best Practices:

The GFOA recommends that governments establish a formal policy on the level of unrestricted fund balance that should be maintained in the general fund. Such a guideline should be set by the appropriate policy body and should provide both a temporal framework and specific plans for increasing or decreasing the level of unrestricted fund balance, if it is inconsistent with that policy.

In establishing a policy governing the level of unrestricted fund balance in the general fund, a government should consider a variety of factors, including:

  • The predictability of its revenues and the volatility of its expenditures (i.e., higher levels of unrestricted fund balance may be needed if significant revenue sources are subject to unpredictable fluctuations or if operating expenditures are highly volatile);
  • Its perceived exposure to significant one-time outlays (e.g., disasters, immediate capital needs, state budget cuts);
  • The potential drain upon general fund resources from other funds as well as the availability of resources in other funds (i.e., deficits in other funds may require that a higher level of unrestricted fund balance be maintained in the general fund, just as, the availability of resources in other funds may reduce the amount of unrestricted fund balance needed in the general fund);7
  • Liquidity (i.e., a disparity between when financial resources actually become available to make payments and the average maturity of related liabilities may require that a higher level of resources be maintained); and
  • Commitments and assignments (i.e., governments may wish to maintain higher levels of unrestricted fund balance to compensate for any portion of unrestricted fund balance already committed or assigned by the government for a specific purpose).

More good economic news for the county: the Piedmont Virginiafrank_friedman Community College satellite campus is on track to open in Stanardsville in the fall of 2012. In his report to the board, Dr. Frank Friedman, President of PVCC, reported they have raised $375,000 of the $750,000 needed to upgrade the space located above the library on Main Street. Encouraged by the amount of private contributions from businesses and individuals and “the great excitement behind this project,” Friedman said he will propose to his board that they hire an architect and get started.

PVCC has experienced “explosive growth” and “even faster growth in Greene County enrollment,” Friedman noted. Considering careers currently in demand in the local area, Friedman hopes to add more technical/work force-related concentrations to the curriculum at the Stanardsville campus, including a nursing lab, information technology program, and an “intelligence community/analyst” program with the goal of enabling graduates to find employment at the National Ground Intelligence Center as well as other up-and-coming employers. “We want to be a community partner,” he said.

In his annual report to the supervisors, David Blount, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District legislative liaison, provided a review of their draft 2012 Legislative Program, noting he expects the governor to be “cautious” concerning education costs, law enforcement, and environmental issues. As the state decreases aid to localities, supervisors are concerned, and rightfully so since the costs will most likely be passed on, as Supervisor Jim Frydl (Ruckersville) expressed. “We need to make sure if the state does “devolve” the maintenance of roads, they don’t pass on the cost to taxpayers.”

Frydl was referring to the “Devolution Statute,” which the Commonwealth’s General Assembly enacted in 2001 to provide boards of supervisors with the ability to assume responsibility for any portion of the state secondary system of highways within that county’s boundaries. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District has been looking into the issue of devolution and has “urged the state to maintain its responsibility for road maintenance and construction, and not shift that responsibility to localities.”

A recent study commissioned by the Virginia Department of Transportation on the state’s secondary road system titled Policy Options for Secondary Road Construction and Management in the Commonwealth of Virginia addresses such issues as devolution and their impact on counties. Not surprisingly, the studied identified that “many counties have limited capacity to assume secondary maintenance responsibilities.” catalano

Steve Catalano (at-large) expressed concern about state government shedding responsibilities by putting maintenance of secondary roads on the localities. “The state’s accountability to us as an elected board and to our citizens has not been good in the last five years,” he said. Catalano has been known to voice concern about his frustration with unfunded state mandates and the increased financial responsibility of smaller counties like Greene.

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene 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

Stanardsville Town Council Passes Comp Plan with Controversial ‘Historic District Ordinance’

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

On Monday evening (7/11) the Stanardsville Town Council passed its comprehensive plan by a vote of 3-1 without changing language that includes consideration of a “Historic District Ordinance” that had generated significant concerned among some property owners.

Despite having deferred to vote on the plan at the June Town Council meeting to allow more residents to review and comment on plan revisions, the council received no new comments at the public hearing held Monday evening. Only two residents commented on the plan: Doris Snow asked that the inclusion of a Historic District Ordinance be removed, and Don Pamenter spoke in favor of accepting the plan as is. Both own property in the “historic district” of Standardsville and both have previously stated their positions at Planning Commission and Town Council meetings.

At previous meetings, some property owners expressed concern that strict regulations would be imposed on them as a result of such an ordinance.  (Full Disclosure: Neil Williamson, President of the The Free Enterprise Forum spoke in opposition to the Historic District Ordinance at the June meeting.)   But, as council member Martha Leclere pointed out during the hearing, the comp plan does not mandate that such an ordinance be established, but rather only suggests it can be “considered,” which, she noted, is quite different. “We are simply trying to preserve the historic buildings,” Leclere said, adding that it was a “real shame” that one such building had been recently demolished.

The plan states, there is “a need for broader historic preservation effort of the downtown area” and, to that end, the town should “consider developing a Historic District Ordinance which would balance specific protections for structures contributing to the Stanardsville Historic District with the rights of private property owners.”

During his public comments, Pamenter noted that a committee composed of town residents would first have to be established to discuss the wording of such an ordinance and property owners’ rights before it could be established. He suggested that concerned residents such as Ms. Snow could serve on that committee.

The comp plan is available online at www.tjpdc.org/community

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene 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

Fourth District Easy Decision for Greene Supervisors, Public Hearing Produces Minimal Input

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

After receiving minimal input at Tuesday (6/14) night’s public hearing, the Greene County Board of Supervisors easily decided to create a fourth voting district and eliminate one at-large seat. Although supervisors reported receiving a number of phone calls on the matter, only three residents provided input at the hearing, and all were concerned about not forcing out an incumbent due to redistricting changes.

With the Ruckersville district having at least 750 more residents than the county’s other two voting districts and Virginia state law allowing only a 5-percent differential among districts, this matter needed to be resolved before the upcoming election. Retaining three districts by splitting Ruckersville’s overflow into the existing Monroe and Stanardsville districts seemed the least practical, least cost-effective choice since the Ruckersville area continues to grow and may require additional adjustments in the near future.

jim_frydl“Even though most of us would not want to change the districts, it’s not feasible to stay with only three districts because of how much we’ve grown,” said Supervisor Jim Frydl, who currently represents the Ruckersville district.

Supervisors unanimously agreed to name the fourth district Midway and, since Supervisor Frydl lives within the boundaries of this new district, designated elections for this district be held in 2013, which would allow Frydl to complete his four-year term and run again if he chose. The boundaries of all existing districts are affected by this decision. Residents will vote in the new districts in the November 2011 election and should expect to receive voter cards designating their voting precinct/polling place. The new Midway district will vote at Ruckersville Elementary School, and the new Ruckersville district will vote at the current location of the Ruckersville Fire Station. The population in each district will be as follows: Monroe = 4,727; Stanardsville = 4,588; Midway = 4,528; Ruckersville 4,554. Boundaries of all four districts are available on the county website at http://www.gcva.us/Redistricting.pdf.

Another matter of importance to county residents, as noted by Supervisor Frydl, is the disturbing fact that the Commissioner of Revenue continues to fail to provide reports on county revenues despite repeated requests from the supervisors. “We’ve made multiple requests for reports from this office; we’re trying to do due diligence on behalf of the taxpayers; and we’re getting no response to our requests,” Frydl said. “It’s impossible for us to provide oversight without reports from that office.”

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the elected position of Commissioner of the Revenue was created in the Virginia Constitution to establish and protect the independent status of the office and to ensure that local tax revenues will be assessed by an officer who reports directly to the people.

Among other responsibilities, the Office of the Commissioner of Revenue assesses individual and business personal property taxes and issues business licenses. Without obtaining such reports, supervisors cannot know if county businesses are operating legally and paying their taxes. Although not addressed any further at the meeting, this issue remains unresolved and most likely will turn up in future board meetings.

With the federal government’s environmental limit on total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) looming, Supervisor Frydl noted that, thanks to the Rivanna River Basin Commission (RRBC), the county is “very far ahead of other regions in the state in understanding the health of our rivers and how to meet the TMDLs.” As a result, once the TMDLs are established, “they may have no bearing on our community,” Frydl said. During a recent study, the RRBC identified Rivanna’s healthy waters and has been promoting their protection through land use planning in the Rivanna watershed. The RRBC provided recommendations to Greene County during its 2010 update to the county’s comprehensive plan.

Earlier Tuesday morning, supervisors attended a groundbreaking ceremony at the Greene County Community Park for a new comfort station/concession area, thanks to a very generous $100,000 donation from resident Ethyle Cole Giuseppe. Although the Board planned to construct the much-needed comfort station to replace the park’s two portable toilets and address the lack of running water, supervisors were awaiting official results of the county’s financial situation before moving forward. Giuseppe, a 92-year-old Greene County native, upset by this unfulfilled need, decided to act sooner rather than later.

Supervisor Carl Schmitt (at-large), who served as carl_schmittmaster of ceremonies, reported that the county has agreed to put in the necessary well and septic field for the comfort station. The $20,000 needed for this project is available and had been earmarked previously for this purpose, so, Schmitt said, it will not involve designating any “new money” to the project. He expects the comfort station will be completed within 90 days.

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Pauline Hovey is the Greene 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

Greene County Supervisor Could Be Displaced By Creation of Fourth District

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Greene County Board of Supervisors’ decision at last night’s (5/10) meeting to split the Ruckersville voting district and establish a new, fourth district could effectively leave Ruckersville Supervisor Jim Frydl out of a job in two years.  In addition the creation of the fourth district without an expansion of the Board, reduces the number of at-large seats from two to one.

jim_frydlFrydl currently resides on the west side of US 29, an area that would be located in the new “Midway” district (a name supervisors agreed on last night), meaning he would no longer be able to represent Ruckersville.

By state law, Frydl would be allowed to finish his term. By the time it concludes (2013), a new “Midway” supervisor could  be halfway through his/her four-year term, leaving Frydl in the lurch. A looming question is whether Frydl will decide to run for the Midway district after a two-year hiatus from county government.

None of this is yet enacted.  So far,  the discussion has focused on the name of the district and geographic integrity, rather than the decision’s consequences.  One alternative, regardless of the name, the Board could designate either district the “new” district.

If the Board chose to assign “Ruckersville” as the new district, Frydl would remain in his seat and maintain the ability to run for reelection in 2013 in the “Midway” district.

Such an alternative concept has not yet been discussed by the Board.

The issue of redistricting arose as a result of the 2010 census.  Continued population growth in the Ruckersville area has created an imbalance in the three voting districts. Since Virginia state law allows only a 5-percent population differential among districts, supervisors’ options were either to move more than 700 residents from Ruckersville to the Monroe and Stanardsville districts or establish a fourth district.

County Planning Director Bart Svoboda presented these two options to the Board based on meetings with the Registrar of Voters Sandra Shifflett, County Administrator Barry Clark, and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), the latter being responsible for producing updated county maps.Redistricting Maps GC Draft April 2011

Splitting the additional residents into the two other districts seemed like the least viable option, given anticipated growth in Ruckersville over the next 10 years, which may require revisiting the redistricting issue as soon as three to five years.

“If we stick with three districts, we’ll have to spend more money in the long run,” noted Supervisor Frydl.

Chairman Steve Catalano (at-large) agreed. “We know Ruckersville is where the growth is. A fourth district sets us up for the future; it’s the plan with the longest duration.”

For the new district alternative, Svoboda basically recommended splitting the current Ruckersville district along Route 29, but he suggested establishing the new district, possibly named “Piedmont”, on the east side of US 29, running north to the Madison County border. The Board countered, stating they wanted to be “geographically correct” and changed the location of the new district to the west side.

In creating a fourth district, Catalano, Frydl, and Carl Schmitt (at-large) expressed concern over the loss of an at-large seat. The board currently has three district seats and two at-large seats.

carl_schmitt“I’ve thought a lot about this,” Schmitt said. “Two at-large members gives the county a stronger element of communitywide representation. Adding a fourth district would reduce the number of supervisors that residents could vote for.”

Because at-large seats can draw residents from anywhere in the county, supervisors were also concerned about reducing the number of people eligible to run for county seats by eliminating an at-large seat.

“I understand the difficulty in getting people to run, especially for School Board,” Frydl said. “The at-large seat gives us more options.”

But no one wanted to increase the number of seats on the board beyond the five they currently have. In the end, all supervisors agreed that establishing a fourth district now is the best and most economical choice to handle anticipated growth, but absent any further action by the board, their geographical focus impacts Frydl, his constituents, and may result in an unintentional coup .

The Free Enterprise Forum is hopeful that the Supervisors may discuss the assignment of the incumbent district at their scheduled May 24th meeting.  Such a discussion would better inform citizens of the intent of the Board.

Supervisors will receive public input concerning redistricting at a June 14th public hearing, which will be officially announced later this month. After the Public Hearing the final decisions on redistricting are made by the local governing body.

Pauline Hovey is the Greene 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

Photo Credits: Greene County