Tag Archives: schools

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.

Greene County BOS Approves Ruckersville Elementary School Resource Officer

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The day after an arrest was made in the bomb threats to the Greene County schools , the Board of Supervisors approved the matching funds ($23,137)  needed to apply for a grant  for a Resource Officer for Ruckersville Elementary School. Debbie Brown, Director of Human Resources & Administrative Services, made the request while also lending support were Superintendent of Schools Andrea Whitmarsh and Sheriff Steve Smith.

Currently the Greene County Sheriff’s Department has two Resource Officers to cover the six schools in the county.  The grant application cites coverage at Ruckersville Elementary School as a critical need.

The grant request indicates:

Greene County has six public schools; Ruckersville Elementary School, Nathaniel Greene Elementary School, Greene Primary School, William Monroe Middle School, William Monroe High School, and the High School Technical Education Center.  We currently have a SRO assigned to the middle school and the high school on a daily basis.  When time permits, these individuals are responsible for site visits to the remaining schools.  As call volume for the middle school and high schools increase, the visits to the remaining schools are becoming almost obsolete.  Five of the school locations are within 2.23 miles of one another, with the Sheriff’s office itself only 1.83 miles from four of the facilities and .4 miles from the fifth.  The remaining school, Ruckersville Elementary School, is over 8.5 miles away from the middle/high school and the Sheriff’s office.  The overall concern for the Sheriff’s office as well as the school system is the specific location of the school and the subsequent response time during an actual event.

Ms. Brown thanked the Sheriff and his department during the past two weeks of bomb threats. Geographically, Ruckersville Elementary  is isolated from the main public schools campus in Stanardsville and this geographic separation creates what was described as a “critical” resource officer need. The request faced a deadline of Wednesday, January 15th – the day after the meeting. She concluded her presentation asking the BOS for their support of this request.

Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway) commented that the funds for this type of request would be funded by both the Sheriff’s department and the School Board in a ratio of 35/65. Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) took time to compliment the school system in their response that he saw a year ago when a similar issue arose and he also we very complimentary of the Resource Officers and that he agreed with the need for one at Ruckersville.

New Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) also was in support of the addition of a Resource Officer. It not only was the right thing to do but may also avoid liability if the officer is not added. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) commented that the cost of the Resource Officer was a small price to pay to protect our children. Chairman Frydl stated that the BOS approved a similar request last year and saw no reason not to approve this request. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) commented that this is the way life now is and there was no choice but to add the officer. He believes the community supports this action.

The action unanimously was passed by a 5 – 0 vote.

In other Board business, Frydl was reelected Chairman and Cox was elected Vice Chair.

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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.

Greene Schools Return $350k to County – Good News or Bad News?

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the July 23rd meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, Andrea Whitmarsh, Superintendent of Schools gave them some great news – the schools have underspent their FY13 budget by approximately $350,000. This is subject to receiving final invoices and having the financials audited.

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh

Whitmarsh went on to explain how the underspending was accomplished. Stimulus funds were consumed, medical funding was tapped out, a favorable variance of $130k of utility cost was realized, the state costs being pushed to Greene County came out at $438k instead of the $5-600k estimated cost due to lower than expected growth (1% vs. 3%) and finally other projects were delayed.

After the meeting Superintendent Whitmarsh provided more detail on how the savings were realized and at what risk. Maintenance projects have continued to be delayed. These include significant concrete repair and parking lot paving of $30k to hundreds of thousands; windows for the Tech Center, roof repairs/replacements (just last week Nathaniel Greene Elementary had buckets on the floor catching rain leaking from the roof), building controls replacements at Ruckersville Elementary for a total of $138K; and a cooling tower at William Monroe Middle School  (this school was without AC for a month this summer – it was repaired to buy time but needs to be replaced) at a cost of $80k to $100k

In addition to the maintenance deferrals listed above, many instructional projects were pushed back.

– Substitute teacher costs cut by having other teachers give up their planning time/staff members use their day to cover $46k

– Delay of new computers (using PC’s 5-10 years) $30K

– Classroom funds for books and materials $20k

– Funds for field trips and instructional supplies $17k

– Tech Center tools, paint sprayer, mannequins, cookware $12k

– Delay of furniture (tables, white boards, custodial) $10k

– Training/prof. development on new state standards $10k

– Delay of classroom books $ 5k

– Extended learning program cuts $ 5k

To summarize, Whitmarsh and the staff of the school system enacted a hold back of 20% of non-personnel and transportation costs until late in the school year. However, the 20% was not spent along with other sources of funds and less costs being passed on from the state to Greene County.

Whitmarsh stated that these drastic measures were taken to ensure that the Greene County Schools did not have to come with hat in hand during the school year begging for additional funding like many local school districts had to do. “We only purchased what we absolutely cannot do without”, said Whitmarsh.

The school system gets an A+ for managing their budget effectively and returning $350k back to the taxpayers of Greene County. Chairman Jim Frydl stated that the school system takes a lot of heat to cut costs and he thanked Superintendent Whitmarsh and her staff for their effort in returning $350k to the general fund of the county.

But, what is the “cost” to the school system and Greene County for the reduced spending? After the meeting Superintendent Whitmarsh stated that 10% of the staff has been lost, many to other school districts this summer due to offers of better salary and benefits, especially to higher paying districts such as Albemarle County. Teachers, who have 5 or 6 years of experience, have left the county and will have to be replaced perhaps by new teachers without experience.

The delay of the maintenance items runs the risk of a higher cost when each item is fixed. The roof at Nathaniel Greene Elementary that wasn’t maintained during the school year is now leaking and will be required to be fixed – at a higher cost than it could have been maintained.

The cost for Greene County, as a whole, is that the reputation as a well managed county is losing some of its luster. Greene County has prided itself on managing its funds well and having a Reserve Fund to help go forward with projects at a time when other counties in the area are struggling.

While the short term result is an accountant’s dream – underspending a budget by $350k; the long term cost to the county may be hard to repair and, if not fully understood, will easily be expected to unrealistically be repeated if not properly analyzed.

As a retired accountant with an MBA and 30+ years of business experience making short term decisions without the foresight of the long term cost is penny wise. Each issue needs to be analyzed and the payback calculated to see what the most economical solution is – it may not be the least expensive in the current year.

Perhaps a truly zero based budget  identifying all issues and prioritizing them would be the painful way to get everything on the table for the School Board, Board of Supervisors and the public to see.

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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.

Photo Credit: NBC29

Fluvanna Budget Proposal To Reduce Taxes

By. Bryan Rothamel

PALMYRA – The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors will be presented with a budget on Wednesday that decreases taxes, according to several sources close to the budget process.

The budget proposal will increase school funding, by comparison to last year’s budget. It will not increase it higher than what was additionally given over the course of the past year.

The sources were anonymous because they were not authorized to release budget information before the presentation scheduled for the 2 p.m. Feb. 6 meeting.

The real estate tax rate for fiscal year 2013 is $0.5981 per $100 assessed value. The equalized rate after reassessment is $0.81 per $100 assessed.

Reportedly, the budget proposed by Steve Nichols, county administrator, will call for a $0.79 tax rate. This would be a slight decrease in taxes.

The proposed budget also includes roughly $13.2 million for the school system. Last year the school district received $12.5 million in the budget. In May the schools were appropriated $600,000 for one time use. Then in November the supervisors voted to appropriate $300,000 to be taken out of fiscal year 2014.

The total funding for FY13, including all appropriations, roughly came to $13.4 million. However, the November deal created a baseline budget of $12.2 for FY14. The FY14 baseline budget does not include any appropriations and takes out the November compromise.

Using the information from the sources, the proposed FY14 funding would increase from the baseline by $1 million.

The proposed budget, reportedly, also includes funding for county employee raises and some funding for non-profit groups, although the sources wouldn’t fully describe how much.

Fork Union supervisor Mozell Booker wouldn’t comment directly on the administrator’s budget until it is presented on Feb. 6 but said, “I’m going to be advocating for more than $12 million (FY13 school funding level).”

Booker also said she wants to see raises for employees, career tech courses at Fluvanna County High School and funding for non-profits and core services (fire, rescue and Sheriff’s Office).

Bob Ullenbrunch (Palmyra District) also would not comment on the administrator’s budget proposal until Wednesday but said, “I am looking closely at funding for the senior center and parks and rec [sic], along with proper pay increases for the Sheriff Department employees. We need to get them up to levels for employment longevity.”

He also commented he wanted to see what the School Board needed and wanted for FY14.

Chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District) declined to comment on the budget process at this time.

Nichols could not comment on the budget until it is presented to the board during the Feb. 6 meeting. The 2 p.m. meeting will have a full presentation plus handouts available. At that time, the proposed budget will also be publicly available on the county’s website.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Greene BOS and School Board Talking Tax Increase vs. Cutting Services

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

Virginia law dictates that localities’ Board of Supervisors (or City/Town Council) have taxing authority and provide a financial allocation to the school division, but they do not have line item control of the school budget, that power is delineated to the School Board. In every locality, this creates dynamic tension between those who have the responsibility for generating revenue through taxation and those whose responsibility is educating the children.

Last week, what started with a request from Greene County School Board Chair Michelle Flynn  to the Supervisors requesting the same funding in FY2014 as FY2013 quickly turned into a request for a presentation at a mid-January public meeting a list of potential cuts for public feedback to prioritize approximately $1.2 million of spending reductions.

Flynn started the meeting with two key questions. First, can the Board of Supervisors  provide the same funding level as this year and the schools will cover any reductions in state and federal funding with cost reductions? Chairman Buggs Peyton (Standardsville) comment was that the county is facing a 6% decline in personal property tax due to reassessment of property values. Flynn’s second request was, would the BOS cover the 1% increase in VRS cost

This lead into a discussion of the Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) which currently has 19 participants.   Peyton agreed with using teachers but not unskilled positions such as secretaries and custodians. He also indicated that bus drivers that require special training should be included. Flynn contended that custodians are hard to find and should be included in ERIP.

Peyton shifted the conversation to the $16 million reserve fund that has since been committed to various projects and that the county is looking at a tax increase since the assessment is down. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) estimated that due to the reduced assessments, a shortfall of approximately $1 million would occur if the personal property tax rate stayed the same.

Peyton stated that he is serving his 11th year on the BOS and his priorities for the county, that some may find hard to believe, are education, fire and police.

School Board Member Roddie Kibler (Monroe) asked how do both boards act proactively to address the $1.4 million funding needed?

Greene County Schools Superintendent David Jeck said that one issue he does not want to impact is increasing the student vs. teacher ratio. With so many mandated programs, there is very little that can be cut – athletics, transportation (which is not a school requirement) and the vocational education program are all possible reductions. Jeck suggested surveying parents to ask what they would recommend cutting to come up with the reduced spending.  Flynn agreed that historically until there is discussion of cutting programs, there is very little public input.

After the first School Board Public Input Session, Jeck told NBC29:

“If there are certain things that they want to see kept in the budget and if there are certain things that they want to see protected going into next year, then it’s really important that they come out and share that with the school board.  The school board needs to hear that, and our school board is very responsive to folks who come out and speak.”

Frydl suggested a joint meeting between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board in January, 2013 to discuss options to cut education funding. School Board Member Troy Harlow (At-Large) assured that if the schools don’t receive the same funding then cuts will have to be made.

Frydl suggested that there is a small window between when the state budget is set in December to when the county budget has to be set in the spring. One of Frydl’s final comments was that either funds will be cut or taxes will have to be raised.

Despite Frydl’s suggestion that the State budget being “set” in December, nothing is done until at least early and often late Spring.  As an example, in May of this year the Greene BOS was adjusting their budget based on the State’s final numbers.  The Free Enterprise Forum Blog reported:

In last night’s (5/2) hastily arranged budget work session, the Greene County Board of Supervisors tentatively agreed to increase funding for the schools by $1.1 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2013.  This was approximately 1 million dollars less than was requested by the School Board.

This let to a most contentious public meeting six days later where we asked if the meeting was a Public Meeting or Pep Rally?

School funding makes up the lion’s share of every locality’s budget.  As we are seeing in all of the localities we cover (especially Fluvanna), greater communication between the school boards and the Board of Supervisors is a positive but will not eliminate the dynamic tension that is designed by state code.

The Free Enterprise Forum does not have specific opinions about any tax rate or spending plan; instead the  Free Enterprise Forum encourages the citizens of Greene County to become educated about the options and express their preference at the public hearing in January, 2013.

There are no easy answers, but it is far better for citizens to become educated and involved during the process rather than enraged at the outcome.

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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