Archives

Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

Share
RSS feed of this blog

Budget Reactions

MORE: Read more Spotsylvania County news

Last night, Steve Thomas–chair of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee–handed me his statement on the budget. I wanted to wait to blog about it until I had some sort of response from the county.

So I hope it’s OK that it’s a little bit late–I don’t have the budget dedication of the person who commented at 4 this morning. I did, however, dream about budgets last night. I hope that counts, although I don’t know what this says about my psyche.

From Thomas:

While we certainly appreciate the work that went into the budget preparation by staff, two important items remain missing: a line-item budget and a tax cut. Spotsylvania’s first tax cut since 1975 will create jobs and give the region’s long-beleagured homeowners some welcome relief.”

County Administrator Doug Barnes said that if the budget would give one penny back per $100 assessed, the average Spotsylvanian will get $17 back per year. The county would have to cut more than $1 million in services. I checked the math this morning, and if you take the average county home worth $173,605 (this is the mean home value, for those of you who care about these things) it does work out.

From comments last night during and after the meeting, it looks like some supervisors will want to see cuts in service in the final budget.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2011/03/02/budget-reactions/

  • Sammy W

    Steve,

    In your mind , I am the minority. Again, in your mind.
    I don’t want tax relief!. Now,I certainly don’t want my monies misappropriated or squandered. But the economy is in the tank and you’re doing a mathematics hocus pocus and suggesting lower taxes.
    That rationale just doesn’t jive with me. Hey, you could always move to say Caroline or King George and get them into believing your Math Magic and let someone else struggle with their $1480~ tax bill. I dunno Steve, seems fair to me.

  • LarryG

    Not sure what Steve is after because they lay out the personnel on a line by line basis and on page 11 – they compare the county outlays for the major functions to the Va State Average and Spotsy is lower on all categories except for schools.

    Here’s what I don’t see yet – and that is which functions or how much of each function are funded by fees rather than taxes.

    This makes a significant difference when you look at something like parks and Rec that charge fees.

    A minor complain, they apparently locked the document so content excerpts cannot be done and I’m asking them if that was intentional or not.

  • havingfun

    I also don’t want a tax cut because I realize that means a cut to services somewhere. I am okay with the rate as is. I agree that I would like to see what the money is going for and the BOS should be guarding against wasteful spending, but I don’t see a lot of waste out there. There are plenty of other things I would like to see in our community and I realize those cost money.
    I am tired of everyone yelling for tax cuts all the time, but then complaining when the level of service goes down!

  • Steve T.

    Mr. Barnes was not correct on his assumption. Again, DJ and I will come out with our own alternative budget later (the line-by-line was not available until this morning). But one thing it does mention is that the amount held in reserve is well over the 10% recommendation- more than 12%. The excess is over $6 million.

    Even if you assume that the county would hold back $1.8 million for a “just-in-case” issue, you could still give taxpayers a $0.03 tax cut- rolling back last year’s tax hike. And no service would have to be cut, not one bit.

    This would be of particular use to commercial businesses, who saw their taxes shoot up by more than 40% last year.

    There were a couple things that Barnes said last night that disturbed me. One was the discussion on Reinventing Government and the Bond rating. What disturbs me there is, for all their efforts at making government less costly, they are not sharing ANY of those savings with taxpayers. Why? Are the taxpayers of the county just a never-ending ATM machine to go and justify more spending? If you have a business that turns in a favorable quarterly report yet does not share dividends with shareholders, those shareholders stop investing. That’s what’s happening here.

    The other thing that disturbed me was the comment that the county’s employees are the county’s more important resource. He may not have meant it that way, but I would say the county’s most important resource is the citizens (including, but not limited to, employees). The difference is a significant one- and reflects the philosophical difference between a conservative and a liberal.

  • Bill Haas

    Steve has been preaching the same message for as long as I can remember. It has become a “mantra” with him. I think it has something to do with his political affiliation.

    As for me, I am still “wading” through the weeds of the proposed budget. I am not sure when or where our fortune turned, but things appear brighter this year than last….at least in Mr. Barnes eyes.

  • Sammy W

    HA!, Mister Barnes is not correct with his assessment. Ok, Ok, lets ask someone with conservative political beliefs and ties. You…yes you Steve go ahead tell us all about how you and DJ have a much better plan -than the guy who does it every single day.
    Yeah you’re right we shouldn’t believe him. It would be too logical, the process would go too smoothly.

  • Sammy W

    Steve, (sorry for the second post)
    I didn’t catch your rhetoric and your sound bite before. I as a citizen knew exactly what he meant when he was talking about it’s most important resource being it’s employees.
    Certainly I don’t feel slighted by the fact he didn’t include me. I am glad he feels that way about the public servants we owe a debt of gratitude to from the Social Workers to the Part time Life guards. Don’t take it personally Steve, he’s their boss and is humbled by their work.

  • Steve T.

    Sammy- look, I do appreciate and understand the amount of work that goes into that budget. Not only did DJ and I do an alternate last year, but as a CEO I do budgets for multiple organizations every year so I do understand. There were some things to like, and I appreciated that he put in 200k more for training for the vols, though more still may be needed to meet the timetables imposed by the next election.

    Look, Doug is a nice guy but he’s a government guy. I wouldn’t expect him to voluntarily give the people’s money back to them, that’s not how he thinks. That leadership has to come from the people’s elected representatives. If they don’t see that carrying an extra $6m in the bank that could go to help our economy immediately is unwise and it should be returned… time for new reps. Luckily, we have a chance to do that this November.

  • LarryG

    Steve has an agenda and it shows through at times. Spotsylvania may not be the most cost-effective county in the Commonwealth but Steve has yet to show which ones are and in the absence of it – we look pretty good compared against State averages and Peer averages.

    The rainy day fund is one of the metrics that the rating agencies use if not mistaken.

    How about if you want to hit on that – that you show us the AAA counties in Va and THEIR reserves and THEN you might have a point.

    The most important resource in this county is providing services to county residents are the county and school employees whom we do pay a fair wage but not an excessive wage to do that.

    We get pretty good services for what we pay – just look around.

    The big problem here is that Steve and DJ are judging Spotsy in a vacuum and not in context to other counties and if you do that, we don’t look bad.

    Hells Bells – we pay 1/2 or less the taxes that many other counties pay.

  • Sammy W

    Oh a CEO. I’m actually glad he’s a “government guy” maybe you’ve heard the story about ;
    The CEO, a unsuspecting citizen and the union rep.
    They sit down at a table with a dozen cookies. The CEO grabs 11 of them and heads for the door. As he gets to the door he says to the citizen, watch that union guy he’s gonna try to get a piece of your cookie.
    That’s how I feel about CEOs sorry. See ya in November.

  • Steve T.

    Sammy and Larry, on this issue I’m very glad we disagree- I’d be doing something wrong if we saw eye to eye.

    And Sammy, that’s a good one- almost as good as the story of the liberal who loves employment but hates employers. But you told it wrong- it was supposed to be a CEO, a union guy and a TEA Partier. Next time you try to steal a joke from the former LG of Ohio, at least quote her correctly.

    And by the way, I run nonprofits for a living- so I have some of the same restraints Doug has on budgeting.

    Larry, you and Doug used the same strawman, a cut in service. DJ and I don’t think that’s necessary here. From last year’s unnecessary tax hike, we have more than $6m in the bank OVER AND ABOVE the recommended 10% reserve.

    So instead of rolling back the 2009 and 2010 tax hikes, most of which were absorbed by the county’s struggling small business community, the idea they have is to basically bank it? Sorry, that doesn’t work for me when I have neighbors losing their jobs and homes and I can’t pass a business center without seeing Thalheimer signs.

    Economic growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You have to try. Spotsy has its competitive strengths and weaknesses, but when we raise takes on business we take away our main strength. You want jobs- gotta try to grow them.

    Then, apart from all that, there’s the fact that it’s not the government’s money, it’s the people’s money and if the government doesn’t need it they should return it to the people and businesses that can really use it.

  • Sammy W

    I agree to not steal from a whatever from whomever, if you agree to not get your facts about Volunteers Firefighters from a Duracell commercial, Mr.Soundbite.

  • http://rightwingliberal.wordpress.com/ D.J. McGuire

    I wonder what Sammy will think when he realizes I work for a defense contractor.

    Anyhow, having taken a deeper look at things (as an aside, this budget is more descriptive than last year’s), I do think there is some room for tax relief.

    As for Larry’s suggestion of judging by other counties, I would note that we now have the 2nd highest tax rate in the region. Only Stafford’s is higher, and they’re looking to cut theirs.

    F-burg, Orange, KG, Caroline, Louisa, Culpeper, and Hanover all have lower rates than we do.

    Oh, and Hanover does have a Triple-A rating, despite not raising taxes since 2004.

  • Steve T.

    DJ- actually Hanover is a great example for us. It’s very similar demographically, similar mix of rural and suburb, similar size budget.

    Except that it has all Republicans on its BoS, all Republicans on the SB, and all Republicans in the State Senate and Delegates.

    Hence, they all work together, they know how to institute fiscal discipline, they know how to cut their taxes to stimulate their economy, they don’t constantly whine about unfunded mandates from Richmond, they don’t call each other names or gripe at each other, they just do the job the people sent them to do. What a novel concept!

  • LarryG

    The Spotsy budget is very credible from a transparency and accountability perspective. Steve and DJ should give Kudos on that point.

    And I like the idea of considering Spotsy in context with peer counties… that would add valuable context

    but the yammering about an all Republican BOS is blather as usual… Spotsylvania has clearly demonstrated fiscal discipline also and as I have pointed out – we are lower than most counties on a per capita basis for all county functions EXCEPT schools.

    So how about addressing that issue?

    Do you think the SB is going to provide a budget document that is as transparent and accountable as the county budget – especially since they are consuming 61% of the taxes?

    you guys are Republicans …WITH KIDS … do your thing!

    :-)

  • Steve T.

    Larry, I agree the transparency on this budget is much improved, and Doug and his staff deserve credit for that (it wasn’t up when I checked last night but was this morning).

    Here’s Spotsy in comparative perspective:

    Stafford $1.10 (reduction to $1.08 proposed)
    Spotsylvania 86 cents (no change proposed)
    Hanover 81 cents (no change proposed)
    F-burg 68 cents
    Culpeper 65 cents (75 cents required for equalization)
    Louisa 62 cents
    Caroline 53 cents (increase to 75 cents proposed)
    King George 50 cents
    Orange 49 cents

    Based on this, I’d say we’d have to start reversing the tax hikes of the last 3 years to remain competitive, especially when you consider that Stafford has no BPOL tax.

    And I’d respectfully disagree with you on the discipline thing Larry. Raising taxes 3 times during the Great Recession does not say that to me. There were some cuts made but the question people are asking is: If I take an income hit, I have to decrease my expenditures in tandem. Why doesn’t the Feds and why doesn’t Spotsy (McDonnell cut expenditures back to 2006 levels, which would have been nice to see here)?

    Anyway, the recommendation here is to use the banked $6m from last year’s unnecessary tax hike (and over and above the 10% reserve) to give the homeowners and businesses their money back, instantly jolting our local economy. If that’s the proposal, it’s now on you liberals to say why that’s NOT a good idea.

  • Steve T.

    Actually, another reason to lower taxes is the threat of annexation by the City. You’ll noitce they have a much lower rate than us; this is what they used to annex Central Park and Fall Hill Dr in 1980.

    The 30 year moratorium from annexation that followed that is now up. One way to keep Spotsy intact is to lower our tax rate to make us look better to businesses and taxpayers in comparison.

  • LarryG

    Steve – what were the tax increases FOR? Be honest guy.

    Would you like to compare, for instance, the per capita costs for schools for Spotsy an the counties you named?

    I’ve got that data if you want it.

    I think you’ll find that the bulk of the tax increases went for schools – millions of dollars.. over the last decade – far more than inflation and school enrollment.

    For you to be an honest broker here – you need to be honest about what the tax increases were for even though I know you are a DAD you are also a fiscal conservative and you need to step up on this issue.

    You DID.. I DO GIVE YOU CREDIT – for showing up in front of the SB and asking for better budget transparency.

    Now take the next step… look at the last 5-10 years of tax increases and admit what they were for.

  • Sammy W

    Steve,
    You know if Fredericksburg City wanted to annex Spotsy they could regardless of the tax rate. It is the law. Has more to do with their growth, than our tax rate.

  • Steve T.

    Actually Sammy, they cannot annex any of Spotsy without the approval of 50% of the residents in the areas they want to annex. The only reason for those folks to go along is the fact that they would currently pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars less in the City than in the County.

    Larry, I’m not going to go back and refight 10 years of budget fights. The current one is enough for me. I would say, offhand, that expenditures in nearly all departments (Sheriff is a notable exception) have exploded, sometimes without ceasing. The school budget is a disappointment because I don’t think people would have minded expenditures there, but they were not in the classroom- they were in the front office. Only 59% of the school budget goes to classrooms or those with direct contact with students. By contrast, in Hanover it’s 69%. Another reason Hanover is a better model for us to follow.

  • Sammy W

    Actually Steve , it’s 51%.

    15.2-3203 Petition by voters of adjacent territory, or governing body of adjacent county or town, for annexat…
    A. Whenever fifty-one percent of the voters of any territory adjacent to any city or town or fifty-one percent of the owners of real estate …

    There’s that magic math you got workin. Nice job.

  • Steve T.

    Sammy man, we are having a blessedly nice and civil conversation here. You can choose to bring snippiness into it but be aware it doesn’t really contribute.

  • Sammy W

    I fail to see how I am being snippy Steve.I found yet another flaw in your thinking and I think I’m just seeing more holes in your theories than…you do.

    Steve, I appologize ,yeah we do disagree. But I mean no ill will.

  • http://UmqaoU GIVEMEABREAK2M

    Before Steve Thomas and his partner in crime (DJ) make a big public budget proposal that could make the two of them look like “fools” I would suggest that they make an appointment with the County Administrator to discuss their “findings and suggestions.” I think Mr. Thomas and DJ tried this last year and it was clear to this county citizen, that they didn’t have a clue as to what they were talking about.

  • LarryG

    Steve, I’ll agree to not go back 10 years if you will.

    Are you ready to stop talking about past tax increases?

    If so, I’ll stop asking you what they were for but I think it’s pretty clear that the vast majority went to the schools not county govt which the county proves conclusively on page 11 that they are not big spenders.

    So you compared Hanover to Spotsy for schools. How about the other categories of govt?

    The county says this: ” The County’s goal is to have total major government expenditures be less than 100% of the average of per capita expenditures for the County’s defined peer group, which consists of Stafford, King George, Caroline, Albemarle, Hanover, Henrico, James City County, Roanoke and Chesterfield.”

    Do they?

    They pretty much handed you the issue on a silver platter. They must know something, eh?

    When we’re done and we know that Spotsy does indeed compare well to the peer counties will you admit it and give them credit or will you look for other partisan issues to attack them on?

    FWIW – I like the idea you are looking at instructional allocations in the budget and comparing them to other jurisdictions.

  • http://rightwingliberal.wordpress.com/ D.J. McGuire

    Yeah, our ideas last year were sooooo bad that Barnes . . . incorporated more than half of them in his equalized tax rate budget scenario.

  • Steve T.

    Again, I’d like to not have this pleasant conversation turn into the FOX reality show “When Liberals Attack”. Let’s keep it above the belt, please.

    Larry, I get a little nervous when people trying to justify higher taxes and more government use “peer groups” of counties to make their case. Many of those places are not our peers in population or need.

    We compete against the counties in our own region first and foremost every day. And among them, we have the 2nd-highest tax rate and lots of smaller taxes on business that have also been hiked recently.

    If you wonder why there are 3500 unemployed and tons of foreclosures, I’d start there as someplace we can be proactive to be more business-friendly and lure businesses here. But then we haven’t had an economic development director in 9 months so I’m not sure the county cares as much about that aspect at the moment.

    And 35 years- more than a generation- of tax hikes is not a blip, it’s a trend. If you’re seriously saying there were no savings or efficiencies to be had during that 35 years, ok, that’s your call but I’m not sure I’m there with you.

    In this case, you could accept every one of Barnes’ recommendations except banking the $6m overrage from last year’s unecessary tax hike and roll back last year’s hike and some of the 2009 hikes on business. No “service interruptus”.

  • LarryG

    No Steve, I’m not saying there are no savings but I’d like to see some objectivity in the analysis and if you don’t agree with the Spotsy selection of peer groups, propose your own but do the numbers – all of them – not cherry-picked.

    so you pick the peer group.. but then honestly show the per capita cost for the major categories and that data is easily obtained from the State Auditor.

    INCLUDE the School costs also!

    I think there probably are savings and I’d welcome a credible alternate analysis of the county budget and apparently Mr. Barnes supports that also because his budget has the data as well as the metrics associated with the budget expenditures – like the LE response times.

    But if you’re going to make the case for years of tax increases the you need to also address what they were for.

    I won’t let you play one side of the street on that issue.

    I call it being honest… and not biased… and I truly believe that one can be a credible fiscal conservative without being partisan about it and I welcome it.

    The 600lb gorilla in Spotsylvania finances AND for Spotsylvania Taxpayers – at both the county and state level is the schools.

    How about some ideas for finding savings there also.

    LE is not sacrosanct either. All deserve the hard look equally.

  • Sammy W

    Steve et al,
    It’s peculiar that you use the word “liberal” to categorize people as a put down (liberal =bad ) for people whom don’t feel the way you do. Or like your silly master plan.
    Then you claim people are being uncivil.
    Perhaps you should seek some help for this. Doug Barnes “the government guy” doesn’t have this problem.

  • LarryG

    ya… I caught the “liberal” slam also… par for the course now days.

    If you don’t agree with the hard right view of cut everything and all taxes are bad – you are a “liberal” by definition. eh?

    Truth is, in my case, I think we spend way too much on the wrong things in our schools and not on the right things as only 1/3 of our kids score as proficient in the NAEP achievement assessments. That’s terrible and it dooms many of those kids to a life of barely making enough to make ends meet much less prepare for their kids needs an their eventual senior years needs and yet.. the emphasis is on “inefficient” govt.

  • Bill Haas

    I have finally finished wading around Mr. Barnes recommended 2012 budget.

    I think from a big picture viewpoint it may well be one of, if not the best, CA prepared budget I have seen. I particularly liked the statistical comparisons to other localities. I also think it contains sufficient detail for most citizens that are interested.

    Previously, on this blog, “I posted that I am not sure when or where our fortune turned, but things appear brighter this year than last….at least in Mr. Barnes eyes.” I am still a bit perplexed on that front.

    I also did some Education comparisons between Barnes figures and the recent Hill recommended budget for the school division.

    Barnes’ school budget totals to $242.2 million. That breaks down as follows:
    67% – Instruction
    3% – Administration
    6% – Transportation
    19.8% – Maintenance
    30.5% – Debt Service
    3% – Education Technology.

    This breakout somewhat surprised me since “we” have made a lot of comments about the high Admin costs.

    Perhaps I am missing something and someone can better inform me.

    Not surprisingly, Hill recommends a total of $257.4 million. I could not find a comparable breakout in the Hill package. That leaves a difference of $16.2 million that the SB and Hill will want to fill.

  • Bill Haas

    Argggghh….I really goofed in the breakout numbers.

    They should read:
    67% – Instruction
    3% – Administration
    6% – Transportation
    8% – Maintenance
    13% – Debt Service
    3% – Education Technology.

    I misread my notes and used the actual dollar values for Maintenance and Debt Service. Sorry about that.

  • Steve T.

    Larry, you are missing my point. When people are hurting this bad and we lost a bunch of businesses and homeowners, it matters less where the money goes than where it comes from. And 35 years of tax hikes isn’t moderate or middle of the road- it is pretty extreme.

    I never put down liberals, just pointed out that the way you and Sammy view the world is a liberal viewpoint. You both seem to stand by your views so I would not think you’d take it as an insult. But a lot of these arguements are circular because at some point there is just a different philosophical approach on the 2 sides. And my point in bringing Hanover in, aside from being a neighbor and comparable, is that it is a county that is governed with a different point of view- and successfully.

    Bill, I haven’t been in front of my computer yet but I’d be very wary of the instruction classification.

  • LarryG

    Bill, can you post the actual dollar amounts for the school categories?

    Here’s the 2010 data from the APA:

    85 Spotsylvania
    173,761,587 Inst
    8,885,043 Adm
    17,730,822 trans
    21,657,410 ops/maint
    8,773,003 food
    27,256 comm colleg
    230,835,121 total ED
    111,973,755 State AID
    27,752,049 Fed Pass thru
    1,518,668 direct Fed

    I don’t think I’ve ever made a deal about administration in Spotsy…. but in Staford admin is much higher than average…

    In Spotsy Amin is about 105% of State ave but Stafford is 166%.

    Steve and TJ will make the case that 67% of Ed dollar for instruction is not enough.

    per usual.. this data can be obtained at:

    http://www.apa.state.va.us/data/download/local_government/comparative_cost/Cost%2010.xls

    and you will need a spreadsheet program like EXCEL

  • LarryG

    Steve if you are going to continue the 35 years of tax increases – then I’m going to insist that you say what they were for.

    I do not have a liberal viewpoint except in your and other right leaning folks as I am very likely much more fiscally conservative than you are when it comes to ALL expenditures and that’s why I insist that you be honest about what the tax increases have gone for.

    You are using a partisan lens to focus on a very small part of the expenditures and this is a disservice to the cause of fiscal conservatism in my view and it undermines your claimed credentials as being a fiscal conservative rather than a partisan hack.

    By ALL MEANS bring in Hanover AND any other PEER county you wish to but lets look at ALL of the expenditures for ALL categories for a comparable period of time when going back to prior years.

    Make your case and if you have a strong case – I’ll admit it but if all you want to do is cherry-pick for partisan purposes then I’m going to give you a rash – and you’ll deserve it.

    :-)

  • LarryG

    Hanover – taxes per capita = 1306
    Spotsy – taxes per capita = 991

    2008 data… from APA spreadsheet

  • Bill Haas

    Ask and ye shall receive: (Values are in millions)
    $160.7 – Instruction
    $8.2 – Administration
    $14.5 – Transportation
    $19.8 – Maintenance
    $30.5 – Debt Service
    $7.5 – Education Technology
    $241.2 – Total

    For the purists among us the unrounded figures may be found in the Education section of the proposed budget.

  • LarryG

    Thanks Bil ! On page 346 – you’ll see this:

    Required Local Effort $43,595,345 $45,514,400
    Required Local Match for Optional Programs $1,302,868 $1,304,133
    Additional Local Transfer $68,932,126 $68,011,806
    Total Local Transfer $113,830,339 $114,830,339

    Would anyone like to guess what the “required local match” is and what the “additional local transfer is”?

  • Bill Haas

    That $1.3 million is required by law and covers program costs for optional school facilities and incentive programs in which the school division elects to participate.

    The $68.0 million is the amount of local funding provided ABOVE the REQUIRED Local Effort($45.5 million) and the Required Local Match and bring the total local funds transferred to the school division to $114.8 million.

    Interesting, eh?

  • LarryG

    Yes. The “required match” is what the State requires the locality to provide to fund the SOQs which are totally dedicated only to academic purposes.

    The 68 million is over and above that and the schools claim that what the State and local match provide does not cover all of their core academic needs.

    But how much of the 68 million is needed for core academic and how much is dedicated to non-core purposes?

    You’ll not likely find that breakout in their budget doc.

    People tend to not see the distinction between “instructional” costs and core-academic costs which are not necessarily the same.

    There are more than a few ‘instruction’ categories that are not required by the State for the SOLS nor for Accreditation or any other core academic purpose.

    I’m not necessarily begrudging the expenditures but pointing out just how unclear they allocations and disclosures really are.

    People may have also noticed that last years school budget even though a PDF was scanned in and thus could not be searched with keywords – unlike the county budget where you can search or a phrase like “response time” or “education” and find every reference.

    So I wonder if Steve is going to try to find out what the 68 million dollars is spent on… eh?

    When you look at the instructional budget, it has been reduced from the previous budget but as I pointed out – it would be incorrect to assume that the cuts affected core academic purposes. I would hope and pray that the cuts were not at the Elementary level which is where I have a particular bias that funds should be prioritized or and never cut.

    .

  • Steve T.

    Larry, you’re focused on expenditures and, while I would be more likely to disagree with you normally on those, in this budget we don’t have to disagree. No expenditures need be cut because they can take the $6m they are currently banking over and above the 10% reserve and use it to roll back last year’s tax hike and part of 2009′s as well. This time, expenditures in the budget- while you can argue why we are bringing on 17 new positions in this environment- don’t need be argued.

    I looked at the school stuff and my biggest question is the definition of what goes into “instruction” and “administration”. The fact that we are spending more than the state average in every category should be a clarion call if we don’t get above average results. But I just went back to the line item school budget released and I can’t duplicate their “instruction” numbers. I’d like to know what’s in there.

  • Bill Haas

    This is really interesting.

    Using the total school funds for 2012 in Barnes’ budget we find that amounts to $10,152 per pupil.

    The $68,011,806 that the county provides OVER and above the required match funds computes to $2,861 per pupil. The required match amount is $46,818,533 and that represents $1,970 per pupil.

    The $68 mil is 28% of the total per pupil amount. The entire county transfer is $114,830,339 or $4,831 per pupil or 48% of the total per pupil budget.

    I am wondering how the amount ABOVE above the required funding is determined? Who decides it?

  • LarryG

    17 net new positions? can you list them and reference in the budget doc?

    thanks

    Bill – the 68 million is decided by the SB of course and unless Steve or someone can show where.. I’ve never had any luck figuring out in the School Budget what the 68 million is spent on.

    You’re right… it’s a BUNCH of money. In personnel, it amounts to over 1300 positions .. while Steve here is nattering about 17….

    The big downside of the County budget is that it is very transparent which makes it easy for folks like Steve to critique it but he never offer to do the same critique of the school budget… which would be much harder because it’s not near so transparent…..

    Steve DID show up at the last SB meeting and ask them for a line-by-line… good luck with that.

  • LarryG

    That 68 million amounts to about $680 dollars per adult in the county …. and probably at 1.6 million per penny on the tax rate
    more than 40 cents on the tax rate.

    big bucks without very little explanation as to what exactly it gets spent on….

  • Bill Haas

    Here is a bit of irony for you.

    If Larry is correct; the SB tells the CA and BOS how much additional, over the required by law amounts, the County needs to cough up for the schools.

    That sounds to me like the CA and the BOS may be surrendering their responsibility here. Should not additional amounts, over those required by law, be decided by the CA and BOS independently?

    Now, I know that technically both the CA and BOS would claim they made that decision. If so, how do they decide on a figure?

    Interestingly, if you peek at Hill’s 2012 proposed school budget—Tabs 1A, 1B and 2– you will find two numbers for “city-county” funds on the school revenue side of the ledger. Those numbers are $114,830,340 and $113,866,659.

    Do those numbers look familiar? They should be; they are ballpark close (in one case within $1.00) to the number used by Barnes in his proposed budget i.e. $114,830,339!

    Somebody is telling someone else what the number needs to be. Both those numbers are too close for coincidence.

    Before someone claims foul, I am NOT claiming that there is anything illegal going on here.

    If there was an agreement between the two boards or others; when was it made? Was it made in bright sunlight? Are explanations to the tax payers in order? Finally, as Larry asks, what indeed does this additional tax payer money get spent on in the school budget?

  • LarryG

    well.. the “extra” amount is long standing and present in many other county school budgets and many of them assert that the state funding for the SOQs which is specifically targeted to core academic subjects tested by the SOLS is insufficient and extra local funding is needed to make up the gap.

    But as far as I know, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a line item accounting for it.

    Not advocating cutting it – pretty sure cutting all of it would result in terrible consequences but without a transparent accounting of it we really don’t know how much of it is indeed specifically spent on core-academic purposes and what is not.

    but “local” funding from Va counties ranges from a low of $1141 per pupil to more than $17000 with Spotsy at the $4000 that Bill alluded to.

    The state requires the local match and nothing more so relatively poor counties like Bland, Tazwell, Lee fund locally at about $1500 and don’t fund much, if any extra.

    Those schools have much fewer programs, few electives, fewer foreign languages, fewer college prep/baccalaureate, etc and sports, band, etc are very modest.

    These things are important to parents in Spotsylvania, no question about it but are they ESSENTIAL in a down economy where as Steve says “people are hurting”, houses are being foreclosed, etc?

    Again, I’m not advocating cutting, only that we know what we are spending money on and if we are talking about how taxes and tax increases harm people and businesses – this is also a legitimate area worthy of at least knowing how the money is spent and whether or not user fees are a more equitable way to fund some of these activities that while important to parents are not really the responsibility of other taxpayers who already pay a huge amount towards the core academic needs.

    Remember – the state does not “fund” education – we do.

    We pay income and sales taxes to the state who returns some of it to us and then we add local property and real estate taxes to that so that at the end of the day, every adult in Spotsylvania is paying a substantial share of the 10K per kid costs.

    Steve wants $17 worth of cuts from county govt. How much does he want from the other 2/3 of the budget?

  • Bill Haas

    The School Operating budget in Barnes’ proposed county budget is $241,298,757. That amount represents 59% of the total county op budget and 61% of the total county budget for 2012. Buried in the school op budget is $114,830,339 of local money transferred to the school budget.

    The entire school op budget occupies exactly seven (7) lines in the county line-by-line budget breakdown consisting of 33 pages of spreadsheets. Each sheet is estimated to contain 60 lines of data. The local transfer money occupies one (1) line in those sheets.

    Logically, one may argue that the county budget does not really need to examine the details of the school op budget; we just provide the revenue. However, it is just as logical that a budget prepared by the school superintendent might contain enough detail to account for the just how major categories of revenue are dispersed.

    The total funds transferred to the school by the county is $114,830,339 and that represents 45% of the total school budget. That is the largest amount of the five separate categories of school revenue.

    I defy anyone to find how that money is allocated in the school budget. There is no clarity on whether it goes for instruction, administration, or whatever.

  • LarryG

    Steve and DJ have put the focus for transparency and accountability on County Govt administration.

    I’d like to see that perspective expected to all aspects of county govt from administration to LE, to FEMS, to Schools.

    They want line-item for county administration. Why not line item for ALL of what taxpayer monies get spent for?

    I think Mr. Barnes moved the bar with his current Budget in terms or process, transparency and accountability and we should strongly support him and encourage it for all expenditures of county citizens taxes.

    I’d get the State some credit on this also with Commonwealth Datapoint which allow substantial drill-down to expenditures (but alas not for gas taxes).

    http://datapoint.apa.virginia.gov/

  • LarryG
*/