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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Supervisor Responds to Blog Comments

My blog is breaking new ground today. A supervisor has responded publicly to a comment in one of my blog posts. I think it is great! For background, read the blog I wrote earlier today. It’s a lengthy one. A regular here, Gramps, made some pointed comments. Gramps basically said Supervisor Hap Connors wants "all things" for the budget. 

Connors responded today. I would love if all supervisors commented here. They could help me engage their residents. They could add to the blog, clear up their positions, and even commend me!!!! OK, I am asking too much. 

Anyway,  I  thought his response warranted a new blog so that all could read what he said: 

"I do not want "all things." I made it very clear that my priorities match those of the people, who want us to fund education, public safety, and transportation solutions – and yes, I think we need to shore up social services. That is what the people have said year after year, and that is what I will fight for. This county has put off investments in roads and the courthouse area too long, and the costs have risen substantially. Putting them off longer only increases the costs, which will only take a bigger bite out of your wallet. So, investing in them now, I argue, is a forward looking vision that is also fiscally responsible. Yes, I do have more than a dollar store vision for this county – as do most of the new generation of people living here."

Does Mr. Connors make good points, gramps? Do you follow what he is saying? Gramps, how did you vote on the 2005 bond referedum? 

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2008/03/19/supervisor-responds-to-blog-comments/

  • lgross

    The FEDS have a concept called Constrained Funding for road projects.

    Basically the way it works is that for a 6 year time-frame you cannot have anymore projects that you can demonstrate assured funding for.

    And each year, you ARE supposed to adjust the costs per inflation.

    Elected leaders HATE this – because it means that they cannot have any more projects that they can prove they have money for.

    The reason I bring this up is to point out that most counties – including Spotsylvania do not operate this way.

    But the key point to remember is this. If you don’t have the money for the project – having it on a list – means what?

    Will it cost you more if you wait? Of course.

    continued…..

  • lgross

    so .. is it better to have TWO projects in the CIP both of which get delayed or ONE project in the CIP if you can build that project right away and nip the inflationary aspect in the bud – otherwise what you have is a glorified wish list – that gets eaten alive by inflation.

    Putting off projects is a symptom for Too Many projects and when you do this.. you create financial mayhem. and if the county is Honest about it.. each year they would have to adjust the project costs for inflation.

    Each project needs to have a defined start date and if there is a “pause” then you have no choice but to push ALL of the projects further out AND show the impact of inflation on those projects.

    Spotsy is having the same problem that VDOT has and simply stated – they have more projects that they have funding for.

  • dobreshunka

    If the rate was 32 cents, some people would scream that it should be 29. You will NEVER make them happy.
    They are also the MINORITY of the voting population.

    Spotsy’s tax rate is 62 or 56 cents. Hanover’s is 81. Henrico is 89. Guess what? Hanover has farmers and rural areas as well, and they survive. I guess they have not let the tail wag the dog down there.

    People who make 20k a year have provisions made by Spotsy County. The people crying are Lake Annaites who want to spend two weeks in Corolla, but instead have to spend two weeks in Duck becaue taxes are so high on their $800,000 home. Cry me a river.

    Everyone, sooner or later taxes have to go up. I’m glad Connors has the guts to actually say it.

  • loganj001

    Dan, great blog! Thanks for the invite to comment. The
    equalized .56 budget is actually 2% ($8.4 M) higher than
    the ’08 approved budget. The .62 advertised budget is
    4.7% ($20M) higher than the ’08 approved budget.

    To get down to the .56 rate scenario it took a cut of
    $11.7M (2.6%) from the .62 ($444.4M) advertised
    budget. Keep up the good work.

  • minuteman

    If you take the long view and make an assumption that better economic days are ahead, then you can make a strong argument for capital debt today rather than waiting until times improve. Construction firms and contractors are struggling just to survive and many now bid jobs at cost just to keep crews employed. They see the value of retaining experience even if it means going into debt. This unfortunate situation translates into an extraordinary opportunity for the County.

    I would be in favor of going into a little debt today in order to get the very best price on a project I know I’ll do sometime in the future. Whether it’s TC’s dirt roads or a VRE station, you’ll never get a better price for the work than right now.

  • dantelvock

    Jerry, got it. Welcome to the blog. Thank you

  • gramps

    we had no power, due to an accident on Block House Rd. Connors reply to my post said it all, he verifys he wants it all and wants it now. That’s fine with me, but he needs to remember he isn’t the only one in the county that pays the bills. I voted NO on the road bond referendum because I do NOT believe the county should be in the road business. That is the commonwealths responsibility and I, for one, DO NOT believe the citizens or the local pols have placed enough pressure on the state pols to do their jobs. Howell et al have totally crippled VDOT. We have evolved into a society that wants all things for all peoples, regardless of cost, and today’s politicians see providing these things as ways to get reelected.

  • wiseman

    Connors did say it all “I do have more than a dollar store vision for this county – as do most of the new generation of people living here.” So anyone who doesn’t want an increase in their taxes has a “Dollar store vision”. What an arrogant statement. On his own website under “Accomplishments”, he lists that he has “Kept Taxes Low”. Oh and by the way, when Connors says he is doing what the people want with funding education, public safety, and transportation, these priorities are from the same citizen satisfaction survey where nearly 80% of the citizens DO NOT WANT THEIR TAXES INCREASED.

  • lgross

    There are a couple of issues with debt that need to be appreciated.

    first, is that the annual budget pays for operational expenses, some capital projects with outright cash – like vehicles AND …. debt service .. for financed capital projects.

    So the budget is about how much debt service the county feels comfortable with – and it’s not just for this year.. it’s for a bunch of years after this year until that debt is paid off.

    How much debt can the county undertake and still maintain an acceptable AA bond credit rating?

    If you can’t afford something.. it don’t matter how much of a bargain it is…

    so folks with credit cards and obscene credit balances never learn this…

    If not mistaken, Wheeler & the BOS did the hard look at costs now verses waiting…

  • hapconnors

    We have kept taxes low. Look at Hanover, Stafford and other similar counties. At .62, Spotsy is a bargain. This year, no matter how the budget comes out, taxes WILL STILL BE LOW. As I said the other night, we can cut them even more below the equalized rate to .47, but we will have to cut back on services provided mostly by our Sheriff’s Dept. and Fire and Rescue so that we cover the areas where those services are most needed based on the call data. I don’t think most people will want us to do that, however, and I don’t want to go back 25 years to a lower level of service – the dollar store vision I referenced. And finally, on the bonds, the majority of residents voted for them. That’s the way it works – the majority rules.

  • hapconnors

    Gramps – you’re absolutely right: Richmond should be paying for transportation solutions. But, they’re not. Please let me know when you finish talking to Speaker Howell and Dels. Cole and Orrock about fulfilling this responsibility. Hopefully, they will listen to you. They haven’t been listening to us. I wish you much luck. Meanwhile, I will work with others locally and in the region to do what we can to pick up the slack and fix the transportation mess.

  • lgross

    I just have to point something out here.

    Richmond does not pay for Transportation.

    Virginia taxpayers do.

    So when we advocate that Richmond increase money for transportation, we are, in effect, advocating for Richmond to increase taxes.

    Further – let’s say that Richmond does just that. Should Spotsylvania expect PROPORTIONALLY any money in transportation revenues than what each Spotsylvania paid as their share of the increased transportation taxes?

    See ..that’s the folly of thinking that money from Richmond somehow does not come from taxpayers but from a money tree intead.

    Nope – it comes from us – and guess what – we don’t get everything back that we pay. Richmond keeps some of it.

    JLARC, the independent GA study group has recommended that roads be done at 3 levels.

    continued

  • lgross

    1. roads of state-wide significance – roads that connect Virginia – Interstates and Primary’s

    2. – roads of regional significance – connect within regions like the Fredericksburg Area and FAMPO

    3. – local roads for counties and cities

    .. the state/vdot would do 1, the MPOS do 2 and localities do 3.

    One of the reasons VDOT went broke is because we were adding 400 lane miles a year – virtually all of them – subdivisions or rural roads that needed to be expanded because of new subdivisions.

    So.. when you lobby Mr. Howell and Mr. Houck, what you’re actually lobbying for is for them to increase your taxes and give that money to VDOT who will then decide how much Spotsylvania will get – thats the way it works right now.

    Does anyone think that VDOT will get Spotsy MORE than it’s citizens pay in taxes?

  • gramps

    from the alias “gramps.” My real name is Bill Haas. I am trying to find out if I can change my login name or have to re-register. I have been “talking” to Howell et al. Those folks don’t listen to dissent on their actions with much grace. I did not say that Richmond pays for transportation. I have never said that I do not want my taxes increased state-wide or locally. However, when I believe tax money, originally marked for transportation, is being diverted to other things it bothers me to no end. This is precisely what I believe Howell et al have done and the result is our current “mess.” I might even agree with part 3 of JLARC’s three level road solution. But I do not want some MPO having tax levy authority that is very likely unconstitutional.

  • lgross

    Hey Gramps .. thanks for “unhiding”!

    your taxes for transportation are NOT being diverted. In fact, 1/2% of the general sales tax – about half a billion dollars a year goes to VDOT.

    The basic problem is that road maintenance has become so expensive along with the gas tax not adjusted for inflation – has left NO MONEY for new roads.

    That’s the reality.

    If you want new roads, you’ll have to pay for them.

    My objection to the – “it’s the State’s Responsibility” is that if there is no more money – and believe me – this is NOT – then what you’re really asking for is a State level tax increase on your income tax or sales taxes or all these other fees that they cooked up for the Trans Authorities.

    so you have your choice as to WHO you want to pay your increased taxes for new/better roads to:

  • lgross

    You can pay them to: 1. the state, 2 – Spotsylvania or 3 – FAMPO ..Transportation Authority

    OR you can pay TOLLs for new roads

    but the one option you do not have is to have more/better roads with no increases in taxes.

    There is no more money.

    Bill Howell and company are opposed to a Statewide gas tax or income tax increase to pay for transportation that the rest of Virginia suspects will be “diverted” to places like NoVa and Fredericksburg.

    So.. naturally..the folks in RoVa whose roads are not overcrowded with rush-hour commuters are not too hot on the idea of raising their taxes.

    so this all goes back to Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, NoVa.

    If you want more roads.. you’re going to have to pay for them.

    Saying it is a “state responsibility” is telling it like it is IMHO.

  • lgross

    correcton:

    saying that it is a “State Responsibility” is NOT telling it like it really is – IF someone thinks the state has the money for transportation but is holding it back (ha ha) or spending it for something else (Ha Ha).

    VDOT gets 4 Billion dollars a year – yes – that IS a “B”.

    Virtually ALL of it current goes to maintain the existing road network.

    In fact, unless the gas tax is raised – VDOT will go into the red on road maintenance next year at 250 million – and going up in the out years.

    The gasoline tax is no longer generating the revenues it used to generate because cars are more efficient and people are buying less gas as the price of gas goes up.

    The net result is less gas tax… and raising the gas tax.. only adds to the problem of making gas more expensive.. so folks buy less..etc.

  • gramps

    lgross, I certainly agree with your $4 billion figure. However, according to VDOT data, road maintenance is 40% and road construction is 25%. VDOT, through the Commonwealth Transportation Board, also provides funding for airports, seaports, rail and public transportation. Perhaps I misled you and others in my earlier post. As best I can determine VDOT gets no general fund monies. This is the basis for my beef with Howell et al. I would bet serious money that in the past, when VA roads were well maintained etc, there was GF cash in the VDOT budget. If one looks carefully one will find a GF line that is now always zero. I’m betting it was not always that way. I would also bet that much of the anti-tax sentiment stems from how the Gen Assy spends the money.

  • gramps

    lgross, we will have to agree to disagree regarding the gas tax. Increasing the gas tax is the fairest way to generate transportation monies. All road users should share the burden. BTW I do not see any gas stations closed due to lack of business. Nor do I see traffic congestion diminishing because people are driving less.

  • lgross

    VDOT .. DOES get General Funds:

    Retail Sales and Use Tax 421,832,000
    Special General Funds 325,000,000

    http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/resources/VDOT_Budget.pdf Page 7

    and here’s where VDOT’s money goes:

    Debt Service $263,431,409
    Other Agencies & Transfers 50,919,745
    Highway Maintenance 1,583,253,995
    Operations, Tolls & Admin 470,634,809
    Public Transportation & Rail 15,259,133
    Earmarks & Special Financing 583,045,421
    Highway Systems Construction 1,047,658,628

    same url – page 5

    so out of 4 Billion .. perhaps 65 million go to rail/other agencies.

    The Construction money shrinks to near zero in 2010.

    The problem is that the gas tax is declining… it only “worked” when gas was cheap and cars got crappy mileage…

  • lgross

    one penny on the gas tax generates about $50 million.

    one mile of 4-lane interstate costs $20 million and urban interstate can cost $100 million and up per mile.

    you can see from the numbers that it would take a heck of an increase in the gas tax to generate significant enough revenues to have an impact.

    The numbers no longer work. Most folks don’t know the numbers. When they see the numbers.. their ideas of how to fix the problem change….

    That’s what has happened to the GA.

    it’s not that they do not want to act – it’s that in order to have a significant impact.. they’d have to raise the gas tax 25 cents or more and most of them from rural areas think that they’d get thrown out of office for that kind of an increase (rightly so)

    Polls show that only 20% support a gas tax increase.

  • gramps

    stand corrected. Using the accurate VDOT data supplied by lgross, road maintenance is 39.44% and road construction is 26.10%. The remainder, 34.46%, is used for the “other” things VDOT funds.

    On the issue of VDOT getting GF’s, using the lgross supplied reference, on page 10 we indeed find $325 million dedicated for construction from the GF in 2008. However, since the VA Supreme Court knocked the 2008 VDOT budget into a “[*#@!]ed hat,” we must await the results of the special GA session later this year to see if that money survives. If the money survives, I applaud that action. It has been what I have been supporting all along. Perhaps there is hope for our elected reps after all.

    To be continued.

  • gramps

    Also on page 10, we see that in 2007 the GF accounting line was “0.” A visit to the Auditor of Public Accounts – Commonwealth Data Point site reveals that the GF line has similarly been “0” since at least 2003. I believe the same is true for a considerable number of earlier years, but I cannot now prove it.

    The $421,832,000 of retail sales and use taxes are also dedicated to construction and I am wondering if that is also a “rare” occurrence in a long time. The fine print at the top of page 9 of above reference says, “Special Session funds include motor vehicle fuels tax, motor vehicle sales tax, and state retail sales and use tax.” That caveat may make those funds also vulnerable in the special session. I also applaud that action if these funds survive. Every little bit helps.

  • gramps

    with the permission of all you fine “bloggers,” I will now retire to my recliner and find out how Mr. Tiger Woods is doing, or not doing, against the rest of the field in the World Golf Championship event. Later, I may even toast the victor with a “wee dram” of fine Scotch whisky.

    As Forrest Gump said, “and thats about all I have to say on this.” Heheh.