Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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On the road again…

MORE: Read more Spotsylvania County news

…and again and again. Roads were the main topic of conversation at tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors heard updates from county employees and VDOT officials. They covered a variety of road issues–from the number of unpaved roads in the county to a hoped-for new I-95 interchange (sorry to all of you commuters trying to get on I-95 in Massaponax daily, that project is still a long way off). Most of the discussion centered around U.S. 1 and Harrison Road–ironically, I was almost late for the meeting because I was stuck at that very intersection forever. Basically, supervisors need to decide whether to use $2 million in federal money to start the project. Want to know how that discussion turned out? You’ll have to read tomorrow’s paper.

There was also talk about the State Route 3 widening project and alternatives for that 90-degree turn at Old Plank Road and Cherry Road.

In non-road news, the supervisors approved buying new cars for the Sheriff’s Department. The department requests some new vehicles each year–because of mileage and maintenance. And Sheriff Howard Smith asked the supervisors to spend next year’s money now. By snagging the cars now, the county can save $208,518, he said. Ford will stop making the department’s preferred Crown Vic models this year. So the county would have to buy a new model, which would cost more and might not be compatible with the equipment the county already owns, Smith said.  Some of the money would be recouped when the department auctions off its retiring cars.

Also, the supervisors talked some more about their wish list for state legislation.

Supervisors oppose a bill proposed by Del. Mark Cole, which would change the way BPOL taxes are determined. This could cost the county as much as 75% of its BPOL revenue. They also added a section discussing the state’s burden of unfunded mandates, which cost the county 40 cents on each dollar of property taxes. And they complained that the state doesn’t give localities enough freedom in determining taxes. These were all added to a resolution opposing the bill. Discussing the resolution, Supervisor Hap Connors called the state’s tax structure “antiquated and too dependent of property taxes.”

For some of the legislative priorities, supervisors wanted more time to study the bills. County administrator Doug Barnes suggested they peruse quickly.

“They’re moving fast and furious down there,” he said.


  • LarryG

    A fascinating meeting FULL of Revelations! For instance, WHO KNEW when voters APPROVED the transportation referenda that at some point that, without tax increases to actually pay for them that the county would be bumping up against it’s debt limit?

    Oh GAWD – when we approved the referenda – we REALLY WERE talking about REAL MONEY that had to come from the county budget?


    We have to pay taxes to get these improvements! BLASPHEMY!

    Better the blame the State, eh?

    Let’s blame them for not raising taxes (the gas tax) on some mythical Virginians but not, of course, Spotsylvania citizens, eh?

    That way – we can continue to pretend that the transportation issues that arise from approving residential growth are – not our problem – but Richmonds.

    Just to be clear. What caused the problems at Harrison Road and Route 1?

    Ms. Golden gave a big hint – morning and evening traffic emanating from Exit 126 on I-95 ………………. go to /from …what?

    residential subdivisions like Kingswood….

    did the State of Virginia approve those subdivisions?


    The BOS did but the BOS expected the “State” to pay for the traffic that would result?

    Did we think the State would give us any more money than what we actually generate in gas taxes in Spotsylvania? In effect, take money away from other counties to pay for our growth?

    Well.. now you know why the rest of Virginia does not want anything to do with a gas tax increase – on their own citizens that they suspect will be then given to places like Spotsylvania.

    So – we OWN the problem here in the County.

    There is no free lunch on residential growth. It COSTS MONEY not only for schools but – transportation.

    Every time – the BOS votes in favor of a residential subdivision – without a financial plan to pay for the transportation improvements that will inevitably be needed – we are essentially creating our very own unfunded mandate.

    Keep this in mind as we contemplate the development of the land around the future VRE Station – ESPECIALLY when the VRE people tell us right now that VRE is MAXED and essentially has no additional capacity – and no real future capacity unless we are willing to pay $20 a day of county tax money for each new rider.

    What that means – is that many folks will be using I-95 and the roads in between – just as they are right now to/from the residential subdivisions on Harrison Road – only worse – just look at the Route 1 SouthPoint area right now at morning/evening rush hour compliments of Lee’s Parke and Lee’s Hill!

    There is no free lunch on this.

    The State is not going to bail us out. We are, in fact, RESPONSIBLE for our land-use decisions – not the state.

    The first step in my view – is to recognize that simple reality.

    It does not mean we should not grow. That growth is pretty much inevitable but we need to stop pretending that our growth is a state “problem”.

    It’s our problem.. And it won’t be solved by the State by some miracle increasing the gas tax statewide because our share will be modest anyhow.

  • Bill Haas

    Amen to Larry’s commentary.

  • Steve T.

    Larry, you raise some good points. It frustrates me when our supervisors- including one who clearly has his eyes on higher office- continually complain about state policy that applies equally to everyone.

    You don’t see Stafford or Fairfax supervisors trying to pass the buck like this. Whatever happened to “the buck stops here”?

  • LarryG

    Steve – Fairfax is working towards taking over their own secondary roads ( like all cities/towns (including Fredericksburg) and two counties (Arlington & Henrico) already do.

    Stafford and Spotsylvania BOTH turned down that opportunity when they rejected the State’s offer of UTSDs which would have granted them comprehensive impact fees (including transportation) in exchange.

    So both Stafford and Spotsylvania had the opportunity to take more responsibility (and it likely would have increased taxes also as has been the case in Henrico) to pay for transportation costs.

    But I won’t let you have it both ways here either.

    If the State is going to change the way it does business with regard to transportation funding… i.e. other than some one-time audit and bond money – no sustainable increase in transportation funding…

    what would YOU suggest to pay for transportation needs at the County level?

    The approved Bond Referendum – if carried out at any faster rate than now being pursued will result in a necessary tax increase to maintain the counties revenues to debt bond ratings.

    For places like Harrison Road and Route 1 – for which we do not currently have money to pay for – what would you advise?

    1. wait for Fed Money?
    2. wait for State Money?
    3. not do anything but wait ?
    4. increase local taxes to pay for bonds to build now?
    5. other – insert your suggestion

  • Steve T.

    If it was me- and me alone, me personally- I’d freeze all discretionary spending and divert a large % of the growth in revenue due to an expected comeback in the economy to transportation needs.

  • LarryG

    Steve – at the local level and what source of funds? General Revenue?

    or at the state level (or both) and again what revenue stream?

    gas tax revenues are flat and expected to stay flat even if the economy recovers.

    so it sounds like that you DO BELIEVE that we have actual transportation needs that require money to fix?


  • Bill Haas

    Pardon me butting in, but I can not ignore the opportunity.

    I think our dear leaders (the BOS) really made a mistake when they did not go with the UTSD opportunity. Yes, it would likely have meant a tax increase, but it would have given them impact fee authority and WE are going to end up paying through a tax increase in any event and will not have the impact fee authority.

    I am afraid that the majority of our dear leaders can not see past the end of their noses.

  • Steve T.

    My thinking is that there is enough there at both levels. Part of the issue is the good point you made on development patterns. But I’m a big fan of the user pays principle. If you take the money slated to be in the Transportation Trust Fund and actually put a lockbox around it, that takes us a huge part of the way. Then you freeze other discretionary spending and take additional transportation and other projects on a case by case basis, assigning priorities. Can’t do everything at once.

  • LarryG

    so …the very best lockbox is the money you keep and don’t send to Richmond in hope that they’ll give it back to you?

    Cuz that’s want a state level gas tax really is.

    They raise the gas tax – take all the taxes that Spotsy residents paid for gasoline and send it to Richmond where they say they will give you back your share.


    So if you have local transportation needs – should we advocate for a state level gas tax increase or pay higher taxes locally?

    or… do we have enough money already locally and just need to reallocate some of it to transportation?

    I figure 5-15 million a year would be a good start. That’s about a penny per million on the tax rate.

    How much does a penny on the tax rate cost an owner of a 300K home in Spotsylvania?

    $30 a year?

    Compared to schools – the owner of a 300K home pays more than $1500 a year – right?

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    The simple FACT of the matter is we don’t have a clue what our elected officials know and more than likely don’t know and if they did know are not telling. What is it about this very same circle that continues to arrive back from the same point it started from and knowing less than we knew 3+ years ago.

    If you were hunting to hounds you wouldn’t stand a chance in finding the fox, or the truth of the matter. It’s called local governance and the fox remains in the hen house.