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Supervisors Couldn’t Agree On Tax Rate Which Means April 20 Will Be Showtime

County staff tonight presented supervisors with scenarios for four real estate tax rates and what they would have to cut for each tax rate.

County Administrator Doug Barnes told them that time was running out. He was hoping supervisors would focus on one tax rate so he could return with different options of what would have to be cut. That didn’t happen. Even though some supervisors said they were ready to make the “tough decisions,” the meeting ended in two hours with no decisions made.

Instead, staff will return Tuesday for a budget work session, at which supervisors are scheduled to adopt a real estate tax rate and a budget. This meeting will likely be a flurry of votes and cuts, ensuring a confusing night for everyone involved. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen before and it’s not a pretty sight.

Supervisors on Tuesday will basically get the same information they had tonight to make these tough decisions.

What I can tell you is it will be either 83 cents, 84 cents, 85 cents or 86 cents.

The Sheriff

Sheriff Howard Smith did meet with Barnes and the following plan was given to supervisors tonight:

To make up the $519,000 in state cuts to the sheriff’s office, Smith agreed to reduce overtime for deputies by $169,000, use $100,000 of one-time forfeiture and seizure funds and use $250,341 in one-time revenue recovery fund balance.

The revenue recovery funds and the balance has always been used for the fire and rescue system, so if this proposal is approved, it would be the first time that revenue recovery money is used for something other than fire and rescue. Revenue recovery is money the county gets from charging insurance companies for ambulance transports.

Although Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Eudailey was present at the meeting, it is unclear if Smith or Barnes asked him what the impacts would be to his office. He already has 10 vacancies in his office and it is going to take a tax increase to help him fill those positions at a time when the combined fire and rescue system is under a lot of scrutiny from the public after a fatal Feb. 5 fire.

Supervisors didn’t express any concerns about this proposal, which likely means they will approve it on Tuesday.

Tax Rates and Cuts

But from here on out, the rest is kind of fuzzy and confusing. Instead of writing a deadline story in 15 minutes, I will stay here and try to lay out the scenarios for you, so we are all prepared for the anticipated showdown Tuesday night.

Let’s start with an 83 cent tax rate, which is the equalized rate.

At 83 cents,  here are the impacts:

  • Commonwealth’s Attorney Office imposes 16 furlough days for employees
  • Eudailey will not be able to fill 10 vacancies in his department
  • The schools would get $200,000 less
  • The Commissioner of the Revenue would not be able to fill two vacant positions
  • The Treasurer would not be able to fill a vacant position and he would eliminate a part-time position
  • All half-year vacancies are not filled
  • Circuit Court Clerk would furlough employees, eliminate one position or eliminate some part-time hours and overtime
  • The Human Resources Director position will be unfilled
  • The $597,000 increase in library funding would be removed, which means the library system would get equal funding
  • All regional agencies would see a 10 percent cut in funding
  • Funding for the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and Fredericksburg First Night would be reduced
  • Landfill and convenience sites would close on Sundays
  • Four convenience sites would be closed
  • Parks and Rec summer camps would be deleted
  • Loriella Pool would be closed
  • Remove $4.8 million from the $10.4 million in the five-year capital improvements plan, which means $2.5 million earmarked for paves roads would be used and those paving projects would be pushed out of the CIP for four or five years

Here is what gets saved:

With an 84-cent tax rate, the pool and the four convenience sites remain open, parks and recreations camps stay alive, the fire and rescue system would be able to fill three of the 10 vacant positions, the human resources director position can be filled and $3.3 million would have to be cut from the CIP.

With an 85-cent tax rate, the fire and rescue system could fill all 10 vacant positions, no cuts would be made to school funding, there will be no holds on any half-year vacancies, the library system would lose $387,000 of the proposed $590,000 increase and $2 million would have to be cut from the CIP.

With an 86-cent tax rate, the library would lose $150,000 of the $590,000 proposed increase, partial funding would be restored to four constitutional offices, no cuts would be made to regional and nonprofits organizations, no reductions would be made in FRA or FNO and the entire CIP would move ahead as planned.

Personally, I still think it is hard to understand no matter how you write it up. It’s a lot of information that changes with each rate.

Supervisor Jerry Logan wanted an 83-cent rate.

Supervisors Gary Skinner and Hap Connors wanted either an 85 or 86-cent rate.

The rest of the supervisors kept quiet.

So, staff will return Tuesday with the same information and the same proposed cuts as today.

CIP BREAKDOWN

Now, here is the CIP and I will explain what has a good chance of being cut based on comments tonight:

(Keep in mind that anything removed from the CIP means it’s pushed out four or five years)

  • Unpaved roads-$2.5 million: Supervisor Skinner was ready to remove this funding from the CIP. He might get three other members to support him.
  • PPTA Phase II transportation projects: $1.6 million. There wasn’t a lot of talk about cutting this.
  • Patriot Park Field Lighting: $495,000. This might be chopped, but Parks and Rec Director Kevin Brooks said he has a shortage of playing fields right now so having night games would help
  • Phase 1 of Marshall Center Auditorium: $240,000. The money will be used to make the auditorium suited for performances. This could be cut.
  • Patriot Park Storage Building and Dog Park: The dog park is $100,000 and the rest is for the building. Supervisors will likely cut the dog park but Brooks said he is going to need a storage building before four or five years.
  • Refuse Collection Equipment: $136,007. Not much discussion about this.
  • Refuse Disposal Equipment: $175,000. Not much discussion on this.
  • Construction of Cell 5 at Livingston Landfill: $2.1 million. This is mandated because room is running with the current cells and the county has a state mandated obligation to remove and dispose of trash.
  • Enterprise-Wide Fiber Network: $750,000. Could be cut.
  • AS400 Refresh Upgrade: Who the heck knows what this is and honestly I have no idea if it will be cut.
  • County Web Site Upgrade: $350,000. Prepare for more antiquated Web service from Spotsylvania County, as this is likely going to be cut.
  • Network Conversion to Microsoft: $250,000. No idea if this will be cut. Don’t they know that MACs are better? (sorry, bad joke).
  • UPS Upgrades: $150,000. No idea what this is.
  • Finance System Upgrades: $400,000. Could be cut but doubtful.
  • Land-Info System Upgrade for Court Clerk: $500,000. Court Clerk Christie Jett said all of the county’s land records are on this system and if it fails, the county is in big trouble.

Constitutional Offices

My hand hurts, but there’s more:

The proposal to offset state reductions to the four other constitutional officers goes like this:

If $150,000 is taken from the library, it would all go to partially fund the offset to the four remaining constitutional offices.

  • $31,839 would go to the Commissioner of the Revenue
  • $76,185 would go to the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office
  • $17,672 would go to the Court Clerk
  • $24,303 would go to the Treasurer

The Commonwealth’s Attorney agreed to absorb $50,500 in state cuts and the Treasurer found $23,000 in savings by not mailing tax bills to customers who have mortgage escrows that pay their real estate taxes. The balance of state cuts would be $89,359, which is well below the original $1.2 million the state cut from these offices.

So, after 1246 words, let me provide a simple summary: It appears the library system is not going to get the full $597,000 proposed increase to its budget. Supervisor Gary Jackson indicated that now is not the time for any agency, group or government entity to get a proposed increase in funding. That entire $597,000 proposed increase for the library is at serious risk of being cut.

The fire and rescue system may lose some revenue recovery money (supervisors are aware of the current problems within the combined fire and rescue system, right? The system failed to meet its 24/7 goal and Eudailey could be left with 10 vacant positions for a system that is unable to staff every station around the clock and recently had a fatal fire that is being investigated).

And the CIP might get butchered, which means I will expect in 2010 and 2011 to get so many calls from people who live on dirt roads that my hair might turn gray from  stress by the time I turn 37.

Supervisor T.C. Waddy could help a lot if he would stop telling his constituents to call me when they call him to complain why their dirt roads aren’t paved. I am a journalist, and I cannot propose a plan to get the 30-some dirt roads–most of which are in his district– in the county paved. He needs to come up with the plan. I cannot write anymore dirt-road stories, folks. With 30-plus dirt roads in the county, it could take up all my time to investigate why promises made were broken. It’s just the way the transportation game works out.

With that said, I am going home.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2010/04/15/supervisors-couldnt-agree-on-tax-rate/

  • bhaas

    Guess what? That CAPTCHA code is not worth a damn! 6 posts by a jackass; all at different times.

    Other than that, this was a great post, Dan. It is very helpful to see it laid out like that.

    My bet goes on the $0.84 rate.

  • http://www.thomasforchairman.wordpress.com SteveThomas

    That they couldn’t decide on a rate last night is a good thing on balance. It means they really are considering tough choices and- for once- the best interest of the taxpayers is probably being heeded.

    I’m not betting on anything, other than that the meeting on the 20th will be an interesting one.

  • LarryG

    hopefully Dan will get help from the FLS IT Gurus to deal with this jerk.

    Yes.. I second BHAAS compliment. GOOD JOB – DAN!

    did any BOS repeat the suggestion of us citizens to go yell at our state elected for not “fully funding” this time as a diversion from the task at hand?

    I am shocked .. that they’re going to take revenue recovery money away from the oft-discussed understaffed EMS system … this is a very bad precedent IMHO.

    it’s clear.. when push comes to shove.. that some of the departments are just fine with poaching – even targeted funds from other departments. If we do this – what will it lead to in the future? Will the Sheriff dept from now on consider part of the revenue recovery to be his fund also?

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    In tough times – we have to cut and pushing out the CIP is responsible and prudent IMHO.

    We have a ton of people in the county who have been laid off, had their hours reduced, and are on the edge financially just trying to hang on and ….ready to walk away from their underwater mortgages and become renters once again.

    I’m concerned that raising the tax rate may well be the tipping point for some who are barely holding on to their homes… as well as small businesses….. just trying to stay afloat.

    I think it ironic that at the state level – they know this and they know just how devastating a tax increase would be on their citizens… at this point in time… I caveat this – “at this point in time”.

    when times get better, perhaps we can notch it up a bit but right now is the wrong time.

    So the state elected do “get it” and the local elected?

    we’ll see……..

    FYI – fixed income retirees on Social Security – did NOT get an increase this year… and I do wonder how many of them might be further encouraged to ask for tax relief since the value of their homes has dropped so much.

    It’s a mess.. and I do not envy the BOS for the decisions they have to make and most of all I hate to see young deputies and others get laid off.. It’s a very sad time for a lot of folks.

    Putting off part (or all) of the CIP seems to me to be a no brainer – as bad as I know some want to go forward on it.

    I’m betting that quite a few citizens are putting off any CIP they once had in mind for their own homes

    We’ve been saving up for a remodel and I’d like to go forward knowing that it will also provide work for someone but if the country raises my taxes.. I’m going to have to rethink those plans.

    I guess it boils down to whether or not I should pay to keep some deputies or pay to give work to a local worker – right?

  • dtelvock

    The BOS had plenty of time and enough information for them to focus on one tax rate last night. They just didn’t have the desire to do so.

    Supervisor Logan asked them to prioritize the CIP list, even though staff members basically said what the priorities are.

    Dog park–not a priority
    They also talked a lot about outsourcing some things, but rarely does outsourcing save money. That is proven. Governments that outsource stuff end up paying more later. The county does outsource janitorial services and it has proven to be economical. But everything else they’ve tried to source out has failed.

    Cutting from one public safety system that is under a ton of scrutiny to fill a hole in another public safety system is one of the more interesting things that took place last night.

    I am not even sure Chief Chris Eudailey knew about this proposal.

    Unpaved roads: I think they will cut this money because Waddy and Marshall haven’t come up with any plan to pave these roads. They argue about the bond money even though they HAVE to date gotten their fair share of the money. They were against VRE and they were against the bonds. So, neither in their many years of service has ever come up with an idea or plan to pave these roads. So, it sounds like unpaved roads will remain unpaved for four or five years unless these two supervisors come up with a plan.

  • DennisS

    There are several unpaved side roads in my neighborhood, some with dozens of homes alongside them, and more empty lots available to build upon. Why weren’t developers of these areas made to pay for road improvements BEFORE the homes were allowed to built? The BOS is a joke. Had they dealt with the tough finances as far back as three or four years ago, some of the current needs might have been able to be met now. Doesn’t the county employ a chief financial planner already? Hmmmm, maybe we could cut the financial planning staff since they don’t seem to be doing their jobs very well either.

  • dtelvock

    Dennis, good question. Those homes were likely built BYRIGHT, which means the developer or builder did not need any government approval to build the homes, and therefore there was no requirement to pave the roads. Whoever built these homes on dirt roads didn’t have to pave it. If a builder doesn’t have to do something, he or she is not going to do it so they can recoup the most bang for the buck.

    Hope that helps.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    re: unpaved roads

    I brought a lot in a rural subdivision 30 years ago and the VERY FIRST THING I asked was if the roads would be built to state specs and incorporated into the state system – and the answer was Yes and that it substantially increased the cost o the lot – and that was their selling point compared to cheaper lots.

    Everyone had this choice and still has this choice., I don’t buy this stuff about not knowing and/or not knowing that you should have known or that the county is the responsible party.

    The country, to it’s credit, has had to step in and make rules simply to protect other taxpayers from having to pay for unpaved roads that the original purchasers should have been personally responsible for – from the get go.

    The county offers a cost share arrangement for unpaved roads also as the residents of Hunter’s Lodge took advantage of by paying their fair share and the county (taxpayers) picking up the other share.

    I have the same problems with folks not taking personal responsibility for their roads – as I do with folks on the BOS sending residents to complain to the state elected for “under funding” .

    In both cases, a little common sense and personal responsibility for the issues would go a long way towards less bickering and more acceptance of personal responsibilities.

    Marshall and Waddy apparently want the right to allow rural residents to build subdivisions with unpaved roads and then have those folks come back and ask others to pave their roads.

    As I said early on – ANY buyer of any lot knows whether or not the paving of the road is included in the cost – and if you want a paved road then make sure you get it but don’t go running around later blaming the county for your unpaved road…. it’s total BS.

  • wizard1073

    The solution to unpaved roads is a limited scope homeowners association. Let them save collectively to make improvements over time that benefit themselves. More roads should be like this in my opinion.

    Great post, Dan! Thanks for making clear the complex workings of our local government!

  • Dan Telvock

    I bet if someone who lives on these dirt roads contacted a private contractor about doing pave in place on these dirt roads, they’d get a far lower estimate than the county would or that VDOT could do.

    That’s my guess. But me writing a story isn’t going to do a whole lot but give them the voice to vent.

    In the past two months I have met with and received phone calls from 11 people who live on dirt roads. Although I told them I would write a story, I have not yet because of other things that have taken precedent.

    But several of them told me Supervisor Waddy told them to call the newspaper (me).

    Mr. Waddy could have supported VRE and asked the BOS to put 50 percent of the money into a dirt road fund and maybe he would have won.

    No one is paying more for gas because of VRE, as some still believe. Gas is still cheaper in Spotsylvania if you look hard enough.

    Mr. Waddy did not support VRE and he has not come up with any other idea to pave these roads. Neither has Mr. Marshall.

    Maybe that’s the story.

  • me

    what ever the case i bet we of spotsy feal like a used deck screw when they are done

  • bhaas

    YES, it is time that Waddy and Marshall are both confronted by their constituents regarding their lack of a plan for paving those roads. WAKE UP Livingston and Berkeley residents needing dirt road paving. Your supervisors are asleep at the wheel. Just confronting Dave Stanley (VDOT), once or twice a month, will not cut the mustard any longer.

  • Fredtastic

    Great work as always Dan. Thanks for keeping us updated. I find it ridiculous that with all that you wrote, the unpaved roads comment generates the most discussion!

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    46 other states – do NOT have the STATE DOT paving local county roads. It is strictly a county taxpayer responsibility and when you collect property taxes from everyone – to pay for paving for some roads while others pay for such roads up front as part of the property purchase, I can guarantee that the folks who pay up front are going to take a dim view of having their property taxes used to pay for others who bought cheaper lots because the roads were not paved.

    I think the county responsibilities on unpaved roads should be to help find the least expensive way to get it done as Dan suggested, offer a cost-share and possibly a funding arrangement that allows access to less expensive financing.

    but I do not think county taxpayers should be paying to pave roads for people who knew when they bought their lots that paved roads were not included in the price.

    On a related issue – I discovered recently in a conversation with someone in county govt from Culpeper that a substantial portion of the rural parts of that county are in land use with substantially lower taxes and virtually no prospect of much of that land ever being actually developed so the “deferred” taxes are likely to be that way for a long, long time.

    I wonder how much of Spotsylvania County is in that land-use/deferred tax category and how that affects the tax revenues for the county.

    I’m NOT advocating getting rid of the land-use tax deferral but I DO think we need to recognize how much land is involved and how much reduction in taxes is involved because if it works like it does in Culpeper, it’s a substantial number and a substantial benefit to those who live in the rural areas.

    It’s a major benefit to those who own larger parcels – and who have asked for and received the ability to subdivide lots for family members. (I presume that the deferred taxes are paid when the lots are subdivided).

    But no proffers are collected to pay for roads (nor schools) like they are with folks who buy lots from rezoned lands.

    We need to keep ALL of these things in mind when Mr. Marshall and Waddy advocate for their constituents.

  • MGWORK (Marty)

    While we’re over here, on the other side of the room splitting hairs over unpaved roads and Supv’s Marshall and Waddy, why not take a closer look at the language being used by the BOS, at the April 13,2010 meeting on the very important issue of ADOPTING CHAPTER 25, George Washington Toll Authority, and inserting the language of the Virginia Acts of Assembly-2009 Reconvened Session; Chapter 801. Once you get past “definitions” and the “creation of the Authority, you might want to take your time as you work and read through “Powers of Authority.” The “route 3 corridor language turn out to nothing more than a distraction. Besides, the Feds are paying for the Route 3 widening with private contractors bidding from the side lines to plant lots of trees, which are extra. Meadow Farms should reap a share of the profits since they will be supplying the trees. It’s part of what goes on behind closed doors at your Planning Department’s “FOCUS GROUP” meeting that no one is allowed to attend other than the real stakeholders in Spotsylvania County politics and development management.

    After my first read of Chapter 801 I thought I was back to the same kind of viseralcontract language we fould in the VRE Master Agreement. And NO, T.C. Waddy did vote for VRE and knew the outcome of the VRE vote BEFORE it was ever taken or introduced to the public. Marshall and Waddy’s NO VOTES were for appearance only, much the same way they manipulate their constituents on the issue of unpaved roads and who’s responsible for their lot in life.

    So, you think the April 20 budget meeting is about hard choices. It really isn’t. It’s about the art of using due process and waiting out which part of the public shows up to decry the raising of taxes, and when no one shows up, the BOS are empowered with the public sentiment to raise taxes as they see fit, much like this sidebar being played out over what powers SHALL be provided to the George Washington Toll AUTHORITY.

    The ground-work was layed out years ago and administered by the REGION’S VRE and George Washington Regional Commission/FAMPO and under the leadership of Spotsylvania County’s elected officials.

    Simply said, it’s a funding mechanism in County budgets, for which no citizen will have any say. When Supv. Connors
    and his voting block transfered general funds over to the Planning Department, Code and Zoning Compliance to underwrite and support their members salaries, when they were at all times, before now, self sustaining.

    Anyone take notice of that Zoning Ordinance changes that were stuck in a “consent agenda’ and received a 7-0 vote, and had nothing to do with an applicant’s rezoning package
    the BOS were to vote on later in the meeting? I doubt it. But the vote is of record and never made it public hearing.

    As for the blog comments recited here by the County Clerk of Court, Clerk Treasurer and Sheriff’s office, I’m not sure what to make of them, or the point they were trying to make as it relates to the BOS having plenty of time to make an informed business/budget decision last week in stead of this coming week. If you are that easily distracted, you shouldn’t be concerned. The other shoe will eventually drop and you’ll have nothing more to say than ‘it’s just a few pennies more…how bad could that possibly be?’

    With VRE and Land Use Scenarios being developed by FAMPO and your elected leaders, I suggest you hold on to your property rights with both arms and hope for the best, which could turn out to be less, and you’ll get to blame yourself for not reading the fine print.

  • bhaas

    This “clerk” baloney is just ridiculous. The FLS needs to either require a password on the new site or return to the old.

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