Tag Archives: schools

Greene Supervisors Approve $28.16 Million School Bond

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”.

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Greene County School System Project

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.

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Dave Ramsey, Financial Advisor

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

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Greene Supervisors Endorse Schools Project Fund Application

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Last night (7/25), the Greene County School Board presented their Phase I proposal for updating the Greene Schools facilities to the Board of Supervisors. The School Board requested the Supervisors endorse the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) application for funding for the project . VPSA offers options for market financing with competitive interest rates.

clip_image004Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh addressed the Board and summarized the process that began 31 months ago with the formation of a community committee to review all the school facilities in the county and make recommendations. The total recommendation is broken down into three phases with Phase I currently being requested for funding.

Kristie Spencer, Director of Business and Facilities added the retirements by year to her previous financial presentation. And then she showed the impact of consuming the $2.81 million excess capital funds that have been accumulated by underspending schools budgets in the past few years.

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Kristie Spencer

Spencer also pointed out that the first payment would not have to be made until July, 2018, which will allow for more debt to be paid down. Per Spencer, there are several options on how to structure the debt repayment that VPSA may allow. The length can be 25 or 30 years, the debt could be back loaded, etc. Greene County can make suggestions but the final decision is made by VPSA.clip_image008

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked Spencer why would the school board not use the excess capital funds to reduce the higher debt in the beginning of the repayment schedule?

Spencer stated that there may be other capital projects to use the funds. Martin suggested using the $2.81 million excess capital funds for the school project since it would have a large financial impact at the beginning of the repayment schedule, until more debt is paid off.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) thanked Spencer for the detailed planning with all of the options presented in a format easy to understand. Supervisor Martin complimented Frydl on his idea several years ago to accumulate unspent funds for future capital projects.

Jim Frydl

Frydl asked Whitmarsh if the Supervisors agreed to endorse the VPSA application could the project be put out to bid? Robert Moje, one of the principals of VMDO, the architects working on the project – agreed that it is important to move forward quickly to minimize cost increases and raising interest rates. However, funds must be available in order to enter into contracts.

Spencer indicated that there are still several steps to occur and that it would be November, 2017 before the bonds would be sold and the costs finalized.  Moje clarified that this should be accomplished by November 6th.

Frydl asked Moje how long he expected the request for bids to be out. Moje said that it typically takes a month with the goal to have the funding and the quotes come in at the same time. Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) asked Moje if he expected any problems in getting bids for the project. Moje anticipated that the project should get multiple bids.

Chairman Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) stated that Greene County doesn’t have other separate facilities – and therefore the school buildings are very important assets beyond their primary function of providing classrooms to the students. The Board unanimously agreed to approve the request of the School Board to endorse the VPSA application.

Finally, as Moje was departing the meeting, he addressed the Board and said that it is rare that a community works as well together as Greene County did on this project.

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 Supervisors Get School Project Update

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the July 11th  Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting, three residents spoke in favor of the proposed school facility study. The third speaker used the military term, FUBAR, to describe the current traffic patterns at the Stanardsville campus.

As background, School Board President Leah Paladino outlined the 31 month process to date. A committee was selected to oversee the process and the company VMDO https://www.vmdo.com/ from Charlottesville has been contracted by the School Board to study and make recommendations for the project.

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Leah Paladino

Paladino indicated that VMDO prioritized the project with 1) safety / security, 2) increase capacity for the 7th fastest growing county in Virginia, 3) adaptability and 4) space for the community to use.

Paladino then introduced Bryce Powell from VMDO to go over the detail of the project.  The plan concept is to tie the school project in with the Main Street project and reduce traffic conflicts on the school campus.  The plan is iterative with each step in the project builds toward the next phase.

Per Powell, the total presentation is a forward look 15-20 years into the future with the “dark blue” section being the first phase that is being discussed tonight. The emphasis is on safer cross walks, improved outdoor dining, having all the buses go to the back of the high school for drop off and pick up of students and the front to be used for parent dropping off students. The pedestrian crossings may have a raised, colored surface to highlight these areas to drivers to ensure safety.

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As the Greene County is the 7th fastest growing county in the state, the plan is to expand the high school and the middle school to be able to hold an additional 200 students each – more than the current demand. At the high school the dining room congestion is a primary focus. The middle school also needs the kitchen and cafeteria enlarged. The space to enlarge the middle school will come from pushing Monroe Drive farther away from the school to allow for an expansion at the front of the building.

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Powell discussed the cost of the project vs. what had been projected last fall. While the plan has become more focused in the past 8 months, construction costs have risen significantly this spring – 15-20%. He attributed this to contractors from Charlottesville to Harrisonburg having a large volume of work that enables them to raise prices in addition to a skilled labor shortage that drives up their costs. The Free Enterprise Forum has seen this trend in many municipal projects in recent months.

Chairperson Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked Powell what he expects will happen to operating costs. Powell indicated with upgrades to the HVAC systems and improved lighting he expected the energy costs to decline. In addition, he indicated that there are relatively small increases in square footage (approximately 3,000 square feet at the high school and middle school each) and it was mainly a reconfiguration of the existing footprint.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) asked Powell how firm the costs were. Powell indicated that they were at the high end. For example, the increased space for 200 students at both the high school and middle school might only require seating for 320 to start. It wouldn’t be the maximum day one as the plan has room for growth.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) stated the presentation while detailed was excellent. It was well thought out and presented well.

Perhaps in a measure of full transparency, the School Board prepared an amortization schedule for the project. The project must be sent out to bid before the Board of Supervisors approves the final expenditure (and determines the financing mechanisms).

The financial pages of the presentation were addressed by Kristie Spencer, Greene County Schools Director of Business and Facilities.

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Kristie Spencer

The first page she presented was the retiring of current schools debt, by year and cumulatively. The reductions  started at $230k going into 2018. The next three years show the largest reductions 2018 = $103K, 2019 = $183K and 2020 = $312K so that the cumulative amount by 2020 grows to $828K. The next seven years range from increases of $12K to $57K and then spike back up to $298K in 2028 and $463K in 2029. By 2029 the cumulative amount of retired debt reaches $1,765K.

As a reminder to the supervisors, Spencer stated the current unspent Capital Fund Balance which has accumulated to a balance of $2,815,000.As the supervisors had not decided to use these accrued funds, Spencer did not show using these funds to pay for the project even though these funds could pay for the first two and one half years.

The next two pages showed four scenarios, two with 25 year loans one at 3% and another at 3.5%. The other two scenarios used 30 year financing with 3% and 3.5%. The gross annual cost with the 25 year and 3% scenario is $1,630,000.

However, each year as more existing debt is paid off (see two paragraphs above) thus reducing the net payment for the project to where in 2029 there is actually a reduction below the current level of debt service.

 

Year Net Increase in Thousands Tax Rate Impact Less Capital Fund Balance in Thousands
2018  $1,297  0 0
2019  $1,115  0 0
2020  $803  0.02  $399.00 
2021  $786  0.04
2022  $774  0.04
2023  $762  0.04
2024  $749  0.04
2025  $696  0.04
2026  $639  0.03
2027  $627  0.03
2028  $328  0.02
2029  $(135) -0.01
2030  $(135) -0.01
2031  $(135) -0.01
2032  $(136) -0.01
2033  $(138) -0.01
2034  $(136) -0.01
2035  $(135) -0.01
2036  $(135) -0.01
2037-42  $(135) -0.01

Average Tax Rate Impact = $.02/Year

Average Tax Rate Impact less Capital Fund Balance = $.01/Year

The current projected cost of the project of $28 million would cost nearly $41 million ($1.63 million x 25 years) with interest at 3% over 25 years, the net additional cost accumulated over 25 years would equal approximately $7 million in total above current levels. Plus the accumulated Capital Fund Balance of $2.814 million represents excess tax revenue that taxpayers have paid in previous years.

While there are many infrastructure demands on the Capital Fund Balance, we ask that Supervisors consider using this dedicated fund prior to increasing the tax rate.

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 Supervisors Set 2018 Tax Rates

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The good news for Greene County residents is on April 25th, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved keeping their personal property tax rate steady for 2018 at $.775/$100.

The bad news is the tax bill is going up.  According to County documents, due to increased assessments and other revenue, the county’s total budget is increasing by 5.22% ($61.267,707).  The assessment increase alone creates “an effective tax increase” of $.055 per $100.

Supervisors Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked County Administrator John Barkley to review the process up to this point and she explained that approval of the budget will be on the agenda for the May 23rd meeting. Barkley started by thanking all of the counties departments, staff, managers and especially Finance Director Tracy Morris , Economic and Tourism Director Alan Yost and Planning Director/Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda  for their work on the budget.

Barkley outlined the process from the first meeting on March 7th, a workshop with the School Board, another workshop and the advertisement on the March 26th of the proposed rates. Funding for core services are being provided for, a solid foundation for the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to go forward has been established and the county is investing in cross-training of staff.

Barkley did address how the county will partially be funding the increased budget – property assessments have increased approximately 5% which will generate over $1.4 million of additional tax revenue to the county. In addition, drawing down of the Reserve Fund (currently at over $14 million) by $4,158,981 will balance the proposed budget.

This being a public hearing four residents addressed the supervisors.

School Board Chairperson Leah Paladino (Midway) thanked the board for working with the School Board through the joint work sessions during a period that has several significant increased expenditures before addressing additional staffing needs.

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School Board Chair Leah Paladino

Virginia Retirement System (VRS) Increase $326,000

Health Insurance $548,000

2% Raise $481,570

Greene County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andrea Whitmarsh spoke in support of a request made during the meeting by the Jefferson Madison Regional Library to add 4 hours each week. Whitmarsh stated that many areas of the county are without internet service and the expanded hours will help students have internet access to help with their school work.

Bob and Joann Burkholder also spoke, both in support of the water impoundment project stating that work should continue.

All five supervisors expressed support of maintaining the tax rate and highlighted various areas that the county will benefit from the budget to be approved next month. Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) explained that 17 departments budgeted reductions while 13 departments requested no increase in their budget and that the increase in the budget is being driven by costs of the regional jail, health insurance and VRS costs being pushed to the county. The Board unanimously approved keeping the tax rate the same and the detailed budget will be reviewed at the May 23rd meeting.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Schools Spending Confuses Supervisors

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Both conservative and liberal sides of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors agreed on Nov. 18, the Fluvanna Schools current budget wasn’t spent the way supervisors thought.

The schools had a carryover of over $600,000 from last fiscal year. The School Board requested a carryover of over $61,000, which passed 4-0, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) was not at the meeting.

Supervisors asked what the system would do with the full funding. One option given was to finish technology upgrades that were requested in the budget process. And that’s where Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) and Don Weaver (Cunningham District) became confused.

O’Brien remembers the supervisors giving money for upgrades in the budget process, as did Weaver. Supervisors gave less than the funding request of the School Board.

“Part of it, is you don’t control [their budget items],” said Steve Nichols, county administrator.

The supervisors approve a total budget number, but not the line items.  State Code explicitly prohibits the supervisors from dictating budget items the elected School Board funds. The School Board takes the budget and divvies it up between its needs. While supervisors gave hundreds of thousands thinking it would go for technology, the School Board decided to fill other needs.

“I approved the funding and I’m disappointed to find out it wasn’t there,” said Weaver.

The school system did some technology upgrades including retiring its last Windows XP computer, an operating system that debuted in 2001.

The technology upgrades were originally in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) but the Planning Commission recommended removing it because technology upgrades are routine items and routine items should be in the regular budget.

Supervisors now disagree after finding out the upgrades they thought they funded didn’t occur.

The School Board can come back to ask for additional money to perform the upgrades, just like any department does throughout the year.

“I would rather see that money (the additional carryover) come back in as the General Fund to go back out in the CIP,” said O’Brien.

The General Fund is the county’s unassigned funds. It is also known as the Fund Balance.

Other Business Items

There is at least one property ready for redevelopment on the Fluvanna side in the Zion Crossroads area.  The supervisors approved rezoning a property on the north side of Route 250 from agriculture to business. The owners requested the rezoning to make the land more attractive to sell.

The board also passed moving the Heritage Farm Museum from the CIP for FY17 (next fiscal year) and put it in FY16 (the current fiscal year), 4-0. The county’s contribution to the building is $15,000. Weaver dissented in contributing $15,000. Previously the county was to contribute $10,000.

The Fluvanna Historical Society has raised money along with grants to build the museum. It will look like a giant barn and will be built on Pleasant Grove. The county will own and operate the building once it is complete.

The supervisors cleaned up some county codes that were outdated or wrong because of changes in state codes. The biggest change residents will find is changing of the fees for filing land use requests.

The fee to file for land use was previously $10 plus $0.10 per acre. Now it is $25 plus $0.10 per acre. The late fee was $10. It is now $50.

The supervisors next meeting is Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. for a regular session. There will be a 7 p.m. session with public hearings on the James River Water Authority (JRWA) intake system and the LCWA raw water pipeline. Supervisors are expected to vote on both special use permits at the 7 p.m. session.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Fluvanna BOS Approves 3 Communication Towers and Lafayette School

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved two applicants’ special use permits bringing three more cellular service towers and one school to the county.

The three cellular service towers is to fulfill a desire from the federal government to bring high speed internet and cellular phone service to rural areas. 52-Eighty, a cell tower construction company, wants to build three towers in the eastern portion of the county.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made the area eligible for a $1.9 million grant to a company who was willing to expand service to that portion of the county. FCC wants 176 miles covered by the money.

T-Mobile won the reverse bid to provide the service to the area. 52-Eighty was contracted to build the towers.

The three towers are all east of Route 15 starting at Bremo Bluff, near the power plant. Another will be placed near the James River, still in the Fork Union area. The third location, in Kents Store, will be on land the tower company will purchase.

Each tower is permitted to be up to 199 feet. Over 200 feet requires to be lit.

The tower company will work with Fluvanna if tower space is needed as part of the county’s E911 radio upgrades. Towers will also be able to have co-location capabilities for other cell phone companies to place antennas on the monopoles.

The three SUP applications by 52-Eighty were approved unanimously.

Supervisors also unanimously approved Lafayette School, to be located in the Zion Station Industrial Subdivision on Route 250.

The private school is for 24 students who do not succeed in a public school environment. The facility has three classrooms encompassing elementary, middle and high school.

The school combines special education and therapeutic intervention. Two instructors are in each classroom with availability for therapy sessions when needed.

Lafayette School currently is in Charlottesville on Fontaine Avenue. The new Fluvanna facility is limited to the 24 students number and normal weekday, working hours.

Supervisors did ask if the hours were too limiting and were willing to expand to weekend allowances but an official of the school said it was not necessary. There is a provision to have school Board of Directors meetings once a month after school hours.

In other action items, the board approved changing their work session schedule to have a 4 p.m. work session on the third Wednesday of the month, when necessary, prior to the regularly schedule 7 p.m. meeting.

Previously, supervisors had work sessions on the first Wednesday, after the 4 p.m. meeting.

Supervisors also approved an FY16 budget calendar that includes setting two tax rates. The first, in February, will be because of a possible reassessment. A county cannot raise taxes through a reassessment.

The second will allow supervisors to raise taxes, which is a most likely considering the county’s financial picture.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Fluvanna BOS Defers Action on Poplar Ridge

By. Bryan Rothamel

The packed house at last week’s Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors cleared out rather quickly with just one action.

Poplar Ridge, previously known Walker’s Ridge and The Point at the Rivanna Resort, was deferred until the Aug. 6 meeting. The issue was a missing document that was discovered the morning of the supervisors meeting and proposed changes to the motions.

“I’m certainly disappointed no action will occur (tonight),” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District) to the packed courthouse.

The supervisors still had two other public hearings that went without a hitch.

The first was for a commercial dog kennel located in Palmyra on Route 15. The kennel will hold no more than 60 dogs and would be an accessory building to a house.

Applicants, Jeff and Gayle Stoneman, operate PawsCienda Pet Resort in Montplier. The Stonemans will live in the house with the kennel located behind it.

It was approved unanimously with small restrictions such as how many dogs can stay at once (60) and also how many can dogs can be outside at once (eight).

The second public hearing was for a school to operate in the Lake Centre shopping center. The location is the old Montague, Miller & Co office, adjacent to Dogwood Restaurant.

The educational facility is for 50 students between kindergarten and eighth grade and a homeschool co-operative for all ages.

The supervisors were presented with conditions to restrict the time of operation but struck it so the school could have weekend hours and night adult classes.

The Light Academy was approved unanimously.

In presentations, the board heard what an additional school resource officer would mean for the school system and the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Eric Hess explained how the one current SRO is used amongst the five schools. The officer is housed at the high school but shared between the schools.

The second SRO would be housed at the middle school and service the elementary schools too. The officers could do more proactive things like educational courses instead of more reactionary tasks.

“Unfortunately, in today’s world this is necessary,” said Bob Ullenburch (Palmyra District).

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

The estimated cost for an additional officer is over $60,000 but the Sheriff’s Office is expected to be under budget this year with staffing changes because of military deployments. The grant mentioned previously this year to fund another SRO was denied.

Hess said if he received funding for another SRO he would use a current officer and hire a new officer for patrol. He wants to make sure to get a good fit for the schools instead of a new face to the department.

The FY15 budget did include an additional officer for patrol. The Sheriff’s Office, then under the direction of Ryant Washington, requested three new officers.

Several years ago there were two SROs but because an external audit showed the department was understaffed. A round of budget cuts forced the second SRO to be pulled back to patrol.

Supervisors instructed staff and Hess to come back with a proposal to be approved at a future meeting.

In the consent agenda, supervisors voted to release second half voluntary contributions. Fluvanna collected $1,608.92 with $748.92 going to the school system.

Per board tradition, the supervisors will have just one meeting date in August, the first meeting on August 6. It will include a 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. session. There will be no other work meetings scheduled for August.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Fluvanna Space Utilization Plan May Include Sale of School Buildings

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors heard a briefing of usage of county space for how the government operates at the June 4 meeting. One item not discussed during the session was what to do with the two closed schools.

In the fall of 2013 the School Board relinquished control of Columbia and Cunningham district schools to the Board of Supervisors. Just before, it was publicly announced the school system was approached about selling at least one of the buildings.

Now, sources close to the situation, say the county has been working through preliminary discussions with a non-profit to purchase both buildings. One known hurdle has been how the towers used for technology will transfer; both are leased.

It is expected the county will further the negotiations to the Board of Supervisors level soon.

County government is moving around to better utilize space. The first major wave of changes involves moving pottery from the Carysbrook Gymnasium basement to the Fork Union Recreation Center. Then moving MACAA’s thrift shop from behind the original Carysbrook High School (now Social Services) to the Carysbrook Gymnasium basement.

That will allow public works to move from the basement of the Treasurer’s Office to the old MACAA building. The facility was originally built for shop class when the county used Carysbrook as a high school.

The county is also considering tearing down the white building (old school transportation headquarters) near the Carysbrook Gymnasium. The forestry department is interested in using the space for a building to house a bulldozer. It could be a lease option.

A secondary wave being discussed is moving the Commonwealth’s Attorney office into the County Administration Building if the county could move Extension Services. Currently, the county rents a building for both the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Sheriff’s investigators. Moving both out of their rented space would save $2,000 a month.

The ultimate dream would be to build a county administration building at Pleasant Grove, next to the library and Sheriff’s Office. That would eliminate the use of the current facility and allow the courts to expand into it.

It would also free up the buildings used by the registrar, Treasurer, Commissioner of Revenue and others. The county could look to sell the buildings or tear them down to build a park. The goal would not be to add to the county’s building list.

Also, the county will need to consider renovation or replacement of the school administration building, the old Palmyra School, in the future. The building is not in the best of shape.

The rearranging of offices takes far less money but keeps the county services spread between Palmyra, Carysbrook, Fork Union and Pleasant Grove. Fiscally, the county isn’t prepared to build a centralize facility like Albemarle has with its county administration building yet.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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

Greene BOS Hears Schools Bomb Threat Update

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh  appeared before the Greene Board of Supervisors at their May 13th meeting to make sure they got the facts and offered to answer any questions they had related to the rash of ongoing bomb threats at the Greene County Schools. Also in attendance at the meeting was Sheriff Steve Smith.

During this school year there have now been a total of 14 bomb threats, 3 at the middle school, 9 at the high school and 2 at the Vocational School . Most recently there have been 4 at the high school and middle school.  Earlier this week, a meeting was held at the Performing Arts Center  where Whitmarsh, Smith and Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Morris answered the public’s questions regarding the ongoing bomb threats.

At the BOS meeting, Whitmarsh indicated that all of the threats have been either writings in restrooms or written notes found in the school, none have been made via telephone. So the assumption is that the threats are being made by students and are being found in the restrooms. Students now have to enter the bathrooms one at a time, have to be logged in and out and a staff member checks the restroom after each use. This is requiring the hiring of substitute teachers to staff this task.

Whitmarsh stated that a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) link will be posted on the schools website for questions that came out of Monday’s meeting . She further explained that during the bomb threats students are evacuated to varying locations – other schools or the football stadium – so there is no repetition on location to ensure student safety. She complimented the cafeteria staff on their ability to feed the displaced students and also thanked Albemarle County for providing bomb sniffing dogs to secure the building. She then opened the meeting to the BOS for any questions they might have.

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) expressed concern that there could be danger if the schools are complacent and one of the threats turns out to be real. Whitmarsh assured Lamb that each threat is taken seriously.

Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) asked if the threats could be treated as an act of terror. Whitmarsh said that Ron Morris answered that it is not terrorism at the public meeting on Monday.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) asked if a reward would be offered like it was in December? Sheriff Smith stated that one arrest is to be made soon and possibly others by the end of the week. If not, then a reward may be offered next week. Martin also asked if the FBI had been contacted. Smith said that his office had spoken to the FBI and they reviewed the actions of the Sheriff’s office and they indicated they would be doing exactly what is being done.

Supervisor Lamb said he understood that it feels like Marshall law in the high school and middle school. Whitmarsh agreed and that all the students are being punished for the actions of a few. Supervisor Deane said that parents need to understand that one of their children is making the threats.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) pushed the idea of using outside  resources such as the FBI.

Steve Smith Greene County Credit NBC29Sheriff Smith stated his belief that his department is handling the threats along with their normal duties with the assistance of state police. He also stated that he will pursue the maximum punishment but if a juvenile then there are limits on punishment.

Superintendent Whitmarsh is working with the school psychologist and many others but stated we just need the threats to to stop.

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Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Photo Credits: NBC29

Fluvanna Supervisors Prepare for Budget Discussions

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Prepare the for the marathon that will be the next two weeks of the final month of Fluvanna’s budget calendar.

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will meet on Wednesday, March 12 for a work session for the entire budget, including revenues, expenditures and the capital improvement plan (CIP).

Where their minds are? In the public session of last week’s meeting, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) doesn’t think the supervisors are as far along as they should be.

Ullenbruch - Nov 2012 Web

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

“We’ve got one week,” said Ullenbruch in reference to the scheduled work session on March 12.

He reference how his first budget cycle included a meeting that lasted until midnight to discuss every item.

“There are some numbers in there (the budget and CIP) that are place holders,” said Ullenbruch.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) countered, “For all the concerns we have, we have solutions.”

Booker had confidence the supervisors could pass a budget in the time allocated.

County administrator, Steve Nichols, assured the board his staff was prepared to adjust numbers and scenarios on the fly.

“We are ready to work at whatever speed you want to,” said Nichols.

The FY15 budget is tight. Supervisors have discussed large items like $10 million worth of debt service for the CIP and painfully went through projects to see if there were savings of $20,000 here and there to piece together.

The budget is built with a higher anticipated tax revenue collection rate, using historical figures. The adjustment allowed to budget revenue as if there were an extra penny on the real estate tax.

The question mark Don Weaver (Cunningham District) had was the school system budget. The School Board will submit a budget on March 19. Immediately following its submittal, the supervisors will put the finishing touches on the budget then pass a budget and tax rates to advertise.

The school budget, if higher than anticipated, can really throw the county budget out of sorts. Weaver noted that if the School Board submits a budget higher than the preliminary reports, it could add to the anticipated tax rate.

“To make a decision when you get the budget, that’s not really good,” said Weaver of the tight time frame the supervisors get.

Weaver noted he was ready to work on the budget as long as needed and even schedule another meeting if appropriate.

Two weeks after supervisors advertise the tax rates and budget, they are then eligible to formally approve the tax rates and the budget. After those two weeks supervisors can set a tax rate only lower than what is advertised. The advertised rate is the ceiling tax rate. To raise higher than the advertised rate, it takes another two weeks of public notice and another public hearing.

The Board of Supervisors will meet on March 12 for the work session and March 19 for setting on an advertised budget and the tax rates. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. in the Fluvanna Circuit Courtroom.

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bryan-rothamelThe 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.