Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
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.
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.
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.
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.