The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Spotsy’s VRE bill coming due
When Spotsylvania supervisors decided in 2010 that the county would become a member of the Virginia Railway Express commuter train service, the county was allowed to defer subsidy payments for a set time.
The time to pay has now arrived.
In July, the county will begin making payments on $3.5 million it owes to be a commuter rail member.
The payout covers a combination of deferred and annual subsidies. The deferred payments go to VRE’s five other jurisdictions, including Fredericksburg and Stafford, which have essentially been covering Spotsylvania’s membership dues for the last two years.
The regular, annual fiscal year 2013 subsidy accounts for nearly $1.2 million of Spotsylvania’s total bill.
Being a member of VRE, and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, comes with a price. Even so, all but one of the five other member jurisdictions pocket millions from the 2.1 percent gas tax collected from distributors.
A chunk of the gas-tax money covers the membership with VRE and PRTC, and the rest can be used to pay for transportation work.
Spotsylvania already had collected several million dollars more than it needed for the upcoming payoff, said Doug Barnes, Spotsylvania’s county administrator.
The county also will take in more than expected in gas tax revenue this fiscal year, said Al Harf, PRTC’s executive director. That’s because gas taxes from previous years were accidentally sent to Fredericksburg due to a ZIP code mix-up, and that money—about $1 million—is now being returned to Spotsylvania.
The county could get even more money if an ongoing audit discovers more mistakes.
Regardless of whether the county gets more of the old tax money, Harf figured Spotsylvania’s gas-tax revenue would total between $4 million and $5 million this fiscal year.
The county recently used more than $1 million of its gas-tax revenue to pay for use of FREDericksburg Regional Transit buses and to pay off debt on several road projects, including paving and intersection reconstruction projects.
Gary Skinner, a member of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors and VRE board, said the revenue has helped “do projects for everybody. It doesn’t matter where you live or whether you ride VRE or not.”
Stafford and Fredericksburg also use gas-tax revenue to pay for VRE operations as well as road work and FRED buses.
In 2011–12, Fredericksburg spent just more than $1 million of its gas-tax revenue to pay for such things as debt on the parking garage construction, train station maintenance and paving.
In fiscal 2013, the city’s projected revenue is $1.7 million. It will pay a VRE subsidy of $358,664.
Stafford recently voted to use $320,872 of its funds to pay for amenities like bike trails, street signs and bus shelters.
The county raised $4.3 million in gas-tax revenue in fiscal year 2012 and will pay a $1.9 million VRE subsidy in the coming fiscal year.
Over the years, the gas tax has funneled in millions to help pay for other projects in Stafford, including the Interstate 95 interchange at Centreport Parkway and current commuter and VRE lot expansions, said Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde.
Barnes said the gas-tax revenue has not only helped with transportation spending in Spotsylvania but also has softened the blow of a depleted general fund.
“If we hadn’t had VRE,” he said, “the budgets would’ve been so much tougher.”
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436