Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
The two highest-paid CEOs in the county government don’t speak.
That’s right, County Administrator Randy Wheeler and School Superintendent Jerry Hill haven’t talked once since November, and possibly longer.
Supervisor Hap Connors revealed this "secret" last night during the work session. He was visibly frustrated, telling School Board members that every time he has to meet with one of them to discuss the budget "gap," he has to take time off work. He often meets with School Board Chairman Gil Seaux, who he said is retired. School Board members and supervisors have met several times offline, usually in pairs which are allowed by the open-meeting laws, to try and settle the differences in the budget. So far, no one has pulled a rabbit out of a hat, at least not in public.
Connors said if the two well-paid leaders actually communicated, maybe they could have worked out an agreement for a budget that several supervisors, including 28-year incumbent Emmitt Marshall, say is the tightest ever.
He challenged Wheeler and Hill to end the silent treatment and settle the funding differences. At a 62-cent tax rate, which is a 6-cent tax increase, the school system is still seeking $8.2 million more. That is almost a 6-cent tax increase by itself.
Hill said when Wheeler recommended a budget that kept school funding flat at $118 million, it did not help relations.
Wheeler said he has no problem communicating with Hill. He said they have fundamental differences with how schools should be funded with local dollars. Wheeler also said he is not optimistic that the two leaders will be able to hammer out a new budget that pleases both sides.
Connors said his point is that maybe the two boards wouldn’t be in the position they are in today if the two "CEOs" communicated. School Board members were actually begging supervisors last night for more money. School Board member Ray Lora said he loved the supervisors and then he blessed them. I’m not kidding.
Sheriff Howard Smith also took some heat over his request for 26 cruisers. Supervisor Benjamin Pitts said he called four or five nearby localities, and the State Police, to find out when they make requests to replace cruisers.
Smith asked supervisors for the new cruisers because some have more than 90,000 and 100,000 miles. Apparently Smith told a supervisor that he needed at least 11 cruisers.
Pitts said he could not find one law enforcement department with a policy that vehicles should be replaced at 100,000 miles. He said he found one policy that says vehicles should be replaced at 110,000 miles. He said the State Police is considering using the police cars up to 140,000 miles. The sheriff didn’t respond to Pitts’ comments.
The assessments this year are much closer to the market than the last assessment cycle in 2006, Commissioner of Revenue Debbie Williams told supervisors last night.
The state conducted an audit of the county’s assessments, at her request, and last night she said supervisors should be getting a letter soon that will say they were 97 percent at market values. She told the Free Lance-Star that the last assessment cycle was 75 percent at market values, which is why many people saw property values increase by double digits this year. When I get the letter, and talk to Debbie in more detail, I will write up an article to explain it better.
I am out of town until Monday so I can be the best man in my high school buddy’s wedding. Enjoy the weekend.