Buckingham Audit 'Good'

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

BUCKINGHAM – During the February 13 meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Rebecca Carter provided supervisors with copies of the financial report for the year ended June 30, 2011.

As customary, she asked if the board wanted to meet with the auditors two supervisors at a time in private sessions or in an open meeting to discuss the report.

When Supervisor Cassandra Stish questioned whether it had to be one way or the other, Carter responded that the board could do both. In turn, Stish said she would like to see them do both-meet individually with the auditors and have the auditors make a public presentation.

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Supervisor Donnie Bryan asked if there would be an additional expense if the board met with the auditors individually. Assistant County Administrator Karl Carter, who serves as the county's finance officer, explained the meetings were covered in the cost of the audit.

Noting that the report includes the new Governmental Accounting Standards Board, GASB, regulations, R. Carter said that would probably generate more questions.

Subsequently, Supervisor John Staton moved to meet two supervisors at a time with the auditors. After a second by Bryan, Stish asked if they could also include a public presentation by the auditors.

Staton said he would accept adding that to the motion, which subsequently drew the board's unanimous support.

Offering highlights of the report, Karl Carter stated, “This is a pretty good audit. Before you look at the numbers, the most important thing is there were no material weaknesses at all in this audit.”

He began by pointing out that revenues were about $3 million less in 2011 compared to 2010.

K. Carter explained that 2010 was an abnormal year for revenues because the county received an unusual amount of sales tax because of the equipment sold at the power plant.

Additionally, he said the revenues were higher in 2010 because of the implementation of GASB 33, which allows local governments to account for property taxes in a different manner.

Along with experiencing a drop in revenue during 2011, Carter said the county also provided approximately $1 million in additional funding to education for the bus garage, HVAC at Gold Hill Elementary School, and improvements to the security system at BCHS.

According to Carter, what saved the county in the face of that drop in revenue was careful spending. “That's usually what saves us each year. We never over spend what we budget,” he stated. “And, that helped offset those declining revenues.”

While talking about the general fund balance, Carter provided an overview of GASB 54, which classifies fund balances into five categories: non-spendable, restricted, committed, assigned, and unassigned.

He explained that the committed category, which is what the county previously referred to as reserves, includes money set aside for economic development; funds committed for Gene Dixon Park; funds for a solid waste vehicle, and the balance of contracts that are outstanding such as the construction and renovation of the county administration complex.

Moving to the unassigned category, Carter said these funds are used by the board on what it deems appropriate. He added that the county's fund balance policy states that it will try to keep an unassigned fund balance equal to 10 percent of expenditures.

Noting that the county exceeded that goal in 2011, he stressed, “I would like to caution you though that we have some things in this current year balance that could decrease that fund balance.”

His list included the additional $800,000 the board appropriated on a one-time basis to the school budget; and, the $1.3 million set aside for the new debt service for the school renovations/addition project on Route 20. “That is coming up real soon and will decrease this fund balance,” said Carter. He added that they also have to consider future state reductions and unfunded mandates.

Carter, referencing the general fund portion of the audit report, pointed-out that revenues exceeded the projected budget by $648,000; and, expenditures were approximately $3.5 million less than budgeted.

County Administrator Rebecca Carter reminded that although the figures demonstrate the county is doing well, the figures are where they expected they would be due to planning for the additional debt service for the school project.

She also encouraged the board to take note of the reductions in state and federal funding, especially for the sheriff's department and constitutional officers.

Sharing that she felt the board should be proud of the way the county handles its debt, Carter offered, “I guess we need to be thankful that although it is planned to be spent, we have it.”

Referencing the decreases in state funding, Karl Carter noted approximately $100,000 just in cuts for constitutional officers. He reiterated that they needed to prepare for such cuts in the upcoming budget.

Explaining that the report arrived on the day of the meeting, K. Carter referenced an included letter that he compared to a report card.

He said the letter recommended ways to correct deficiencies, which he stated for the most part were minor. Carter shared that the departments affected by the comments have been advised and their responses will be shared with the board.

Finance Committee Report On Communications System

Supervisor Staton provided a finance committee report on the emergency services radio system.

According to Staton, the committee has met twice and is now in the process of getting RFPs, requests for proposals.

“We don't want to do this but once,” stated Staton. He said they were shooting for what is called the 95-95-95, a system that would cover 95 percent of the county 95 percent of the time with 95 percent of the leaves on the trees.

Staton added that they couldn't go back to the old days of analog nor would it do any good to change the whole system if half of the handhelds and units in vehicles are not functioning properly.

Noting that Toga Volunteer Fire Department has repeaters in its vehicles, Staton said that was one of the things he was considering and wanted to price.

“For those of you who are interested, we are working on it,” offered Staton, adding that they wanted to be able to bring the board the best possible plan. He encouraged anyone with input and/or suggestions to contact him or Jamie Shumaker, the county's IT manager.

Transient Occupancy Tax

Addressing an error in the Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance, County Administrator Carter said the county mistakenly imposed a six percent tax instead of the two percent allowed by law.

Carter explained that the authority to impose a rate higher than the two percent requires special legislation through the Virginia General Assembly. She added that it is too late this year to pursue such legislation but the county would do so next year.

Subsequently, Carter asked that the board approve a reimbursement to Star Motel for $15,357.26, which reflects the rate difference. In turn, the board authorized the reimbursement.

Supervisors also agreed to schedule a public hearing to coincide with its March meeting to amend the ordinance to reflect the two percent rate.

Moreover, agreeing with advice offered by County Attorney E. M. Wright, the board enacted an emergency ordinance stipulating the two percent tax rate until the revised ordinance can be approved.

Vehicle Maintenance

Supervisor Bill Talbert led with a successful motion to seek bids and other options for repairs of all county vehicles with the exception of the solid waste vehicles.

The action included tasking the county administrator and the finance officer to work with the sheriff on options to include the use of the school bus garage as well as getting costs from local businesses.

“This is all about saving money,” stated Talbert. He explained that he included exploring the option of the bus garage because when the previous boards approved its construction they agreed to add a bay to accommodate service on county vehicles.

Before the vote, Stish, noting that the issue was on her mind, thanked Talbert for bringing it before the board. She shared that the issue has been a divisive one for businesses and the community.

The motion drew the board's unanimous support.

Administrator's Report

County Administrator Carter began her report by explaining that the county has $681,385 in its economic development fund. She recommended that guidelines be formulated on the use of those funds, which were generated by the sale of properties in the industrial park.

Carter explained the need for being able to act quickly when confronted with economic development opportunities.

Supervisor Stish suggested forming an economic development committee. However, Supervisor Talbert shared that they already have two of the best people doing that job-the county administrator and the assistant county administrator.

Stish explained that her suggestion was in no way a reflection on the administrator or assistant administrator. She said the function of the committee would be to work together to respond quickly to those inquiries.

Carter, offering that inquiries oftentimes call for quick responses, shared, “I need some guidelines.” Noting how she usually tries to contact all of the board members in such situations, she reiterated, “We have to act fast.”

Talbert moved that the county administrator formulate the guidelines and bring them to the board at the next meeting.

During the discussion on the motion, Stish asked if the intent was for board members to help Carter formulate the guidelines. Talbert said he did not think that was necessary.

Carter shared that her concerns included being able to know what incentives could be proposed to a prospective business offering quality jobs. She stated, “We need an enhancement package. We need an enhancement and criteria package.”

As an example, Carter explained that if there were a prospective business with 20 jobs, she would want to be able say what the county would be willing to offer as incentives. She added that it was crucial to be able to be competitive.

Carter reminded that a public hearing is required before county property can be sold or leased.

After more discussion, the board unanimously supported the motion for the county administrator to formulate the guidelines and bring them to the board in March.

In her report, Carter advised that the county received a Training Mini Grant of $5,910 from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs.

The county administrator shared that Supervisor Stish has been appointed to the Virginia Association of Counties' Environment and Agriculture Committee.

Carter reported that VACO in conjunction with the Virginia Cooperative Extension is offering the Virginia Certified County Supervisor Program. Referencing information in the board packet, Carter said if any supervisors are interested to let her office know and they will make the arrangements.

Expressing her appreciation to the Peter Francisco Soil & Water Conservation District and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Carter thanked the agencies for their assistance and work in compiling Phase II of the Chesapeake Bay Model Agricultural Land Use and Best Management Practices data for the county.

“We really appreciate the partnership we have with them,” shared Carter.

Citizen Comment Segment

Scott Leake from the Charlottesville office of Congressman Robert Hurt was first to the podium. Extending good wishes and greetings to the board, he offered, “We hope to work with you in anyway we possibly can in the coming year.”

Gordon Winn, who addressed the board last month about the communications system, reiterated that he felt the county did not have to spend up to half a million dollars to replace the current system.

“Telephone lines, yes, they need to be replaced and it has already been proven that this can be done in a cost effective manner,” said Winn.

Noting that some fire and rescue volunteers constantly complain about the system, Winn said he always hears the radio system loud and clear because he keeps his equipment maintained and knows how to use it properly.

Sharing that he has more than 50 years experience in radio communications, Winn questioned, “How many fire and rescue volunteers understand that not only is it potentially dangerous to their health to use handheld radios within a vehicle but that handheld radios don't work very well inside of vehicles.”

He added, “Think about it-the metal of the vehicle shields and blocks the radio signal. I can provide you with documentation from the FCC that explains this thoroughly.” Winn offered, “Getting the radio signal outside of their vehicle will go a long ways toward solving that problem.”

Urging the county to look at solutions other than doing a complete replacement, Winn encouraged the county administration and the fire and rescue volunteers to come to reasonable and cost effective solutions.

Pete Kapuscinski reminded that in January he requested the board add economic development to its agenda each month and appoint a supervisor to manage and be accountable for reporting on any progress.

Referencing the anticipated FY 13 budget shortfall projected by the school division and the debt service for the school complex on Route 20, Kapuscinski said if the county doesn't find revenue to help settle that difference the burden will be on the taxpayers.

“We elected you people to watch over our funds. I don't really care if it's the school board or the county, it comes out of our pockets,” stated Kapuscinski.

Repeating his request, he asked that an economic development report be put on the monthly agenda so the public would know what the board is doing to find alternative sources of revenue.

He concluded, “I would like to see someone up there talk to us about maintaining our current tax rate and not having us pay anymore during these difficult economic times.”

In Other Board Action

Supervisors, in a unanimous vote approved the low bid of $5,225 from T.N.T. Carports for a 24 by 31 foot storage building to be installed at Gene Dixon Sr. Memorial Park.

Concurring with a request from the county administrator, the board authorized her to advertise RFPs for the upcoming real estate reassessment.

The board agreed not to voluntarily assume responsibility for local storm water management programs currently overseen by the state. In making the motion, Supervisor Staton said he agreed with the county administrator that this could lead to another unfunded mandate.

Agreeing with a recommendation by the county attorney, the board voted to review updated information on the Comcast agreement and consider action at the March meeting.

With a motion by Supervisor Joe Chambers, the board appointed Tommy Bradshaw to the Industrial Development Authority to represent District 6.

The board unanimously concurred with a recommendation by Supervisor Stish to appoint Planning Commissioner Alice Gormus to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Supervisor Staton volunteered to serve as the BOS representative on the Buckingham Library Board.