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Buckingham Budget Hearing Set For April 16

BUCKINGHAM – Before concluding its March 28 work session on the FY13 budget, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors approved the county administrator's proposed budget for advertisement and public hearing.

As presented, the $40,881,230 budget will not require any tax or fee increases. Moreover, the proposal projects an estimated ending year balance, now referenced as an unassigned fund balance, of $4,244,749.

Addressing that figure, Carter offered, “This is the amount that we expect, hope and wish to have at the end of next fiscal year.”

She added that the figure represents about ten percent of the budget, as recommended. “It's a safe balance,” stated Carter.

The public hearing on the proposed FY13 budget is set for Monday, April 16, at 7 p.m., in the auditorium of the Agricultural Center, next to the county administration complex.

At the start of the work session, before providing supervisors with a page-by-page account of her budget proposal, Carter explained that the board could make changes as they go through the document. However, she stressed that if those changes exceed the anticipated revenues, supervisors would have to increase the tax rates.

Noting that the state has not adopted its budget, Carter reminded that they were unsure of state funding figures, especially with regard to school funding and expenses for the Virginia Retirement System.

She told supervisors that she would get the actual figures to them once the state budget is finalized.

The county administrator explained that her proposal included an additional $150,000 in reserve to help offset the anticipated loss to employees due to the VRS formula and to possibly provide a two percent pay increase.

According to Carter, county employees have not had a pay increase in four years and they are facing a ten percent increase in what they will pay for health insurance.

Focusing on the additional $150,000, Carter offered, “It is easier to take a budget down then it is to raise it.”

Reiterating the same scenario, Carter explained she proposed an additional $500,000 to the school budget pending the outcome of state funding.

While reviewing anticipated revenues, Carter noted that, as planned, the increase in public service tax from the Bear Garden Power Plant would help offset the new school debt service of $1,471,658.

During a discussion about anticipated revenues of $52,400 from fines and forfeitures, Supervisor Bill Talbert asked if there was any way that money could be put in a fund to help supplement deputy salaries to make them more competitive in an effort to help ensure the deputies they have stay with the county.

Moving on to the expenditure side of the budget, Carter explained that the $1,666,285 law enforcement budget included local funding of $881,720. She noted that the sheriff's budget proposes an increase in local funds of $79,820.

Moreover, Carter said the local portion includes $21,000 in salary supplements and $106,000 for E-911 communications.

According to the county administrator, $924,161 of the law enforcement budget is used for full-time salaries.

She added that the budget did include four vehicles that the sheriff requested.

Carter pointed-out that she included $100,000 for the upcoming real estate reassessment. She explained the $100,000 should cover the first year of the approximately 18-month process.

Discussing the $254,067 for the county's volunteer fire departments, Carter said the planning commission recommended that the capital improvement funds of $20,000 for most of the fire departments, and the $30,000 for one department, no longer be considered with other capital improvements.

She offered that because of the limitations imposed by that classification, the commission felt it would be more advantageous for the funds to become part of the departments' operations budgets.

Explaining that the departments would have the discretion to use the funds to make a payment on a vehicle or to save it to purchase a vehicle, Carter stressed that requests for vehicles would no longer be considered with capital improvements.

The Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad will get an increase of $5,000 to help with rising fuel cost, bringing its funding from the county to $195,000, said Carter.

She explained that as they did with the fire departments, the planning commission recommended putting the squad's $50,000 from capital improvement into its operations budget.

Reviewing the $774,263 for refuse collection, Carter shared that following the last reassessment, in lieu of raising the real estate tax rate she recommended the board consider a monthly $10 per household solid waste fee that would fully fund the solid waste department.

At that time, Carter explained the fee would be more equitable for all residents rather than placing the burden on property owners. However, only one board member supported the idea.

In that proposal, Carter noted that senior and disabled residents who participate in the real estate tax stabilization program would not be required to pay the fee nor would residents who contract for private trash pick-up.

During the FY13 work session, Carter offered that the board might want to consider such a fee. She also suggested implementing a $25 fee to obtain the permit for Buckingham property owners who do not reside in the county but utilize the solid waste collection sites. Currently, there is no charge for the permit.

As the discussion ensued, Supervisor Talbert suggested revisiting the feasibility of doing away with the county decal.

Subsequently, it was the consensus of the board to plan a work session on those issues.

Going through the budget book, the county administrator noted that some increases for agencies and colleges were based on per capita from the 2010 Census. However, she added that she was not recommending that all of them be funded at the requested level.

Continuing her review of expenditures, Carter advised that as in the past, any requests for new funding would be up to the board.

She explained that two such requests were Ellis Acres Memorial Park, for $164,100; and, $35,000 to pay for the design of a new library building.

The Ellis Acres request calls for approximately $50,000 to help with annual operating costs and the rest would be used for continuing capital improvements at the park, said Carter.

Cautioning funding requests that would become recurring expenses in future budgets, the county administrator noted that the county does not fund the Historic Village at Lee Wayside or Holiday Lake.

Offering that EAMP has done a tremendous job with the park and raising money, Carter added, “And, it is a nice facility…and we do benefit from it.”

Talbert added that he would be attending a workforce meeting next week and planned to ask about possible funding for the community/conference center at EAMP, which is suitable for college classes and workforce training.

Continuing, Carter explained that the planning commission did not include the library request in its capital improvement plan. However, she said the library building committee must have plans before they can seek grant funding for the project.

Supervisor Cassandra Stish offered that both EAMP and the proposed new library fulfill objectives in the economic development section of the comprehensive plan.

She added that she was interested in the idea of letting such entities use the county's membership with the Commonwealth Regional Council for grant writing. “And maybe this board could consider offering some money toward grants or for grant preparation,” said Stish.

Before beginning on the portion of the budget dealing with the public school system, Carter explained that the school board budget continues to be a work in progress due to the state budget and efforts of school officials to look for further reductions to balance its expenditures with the anticipated revenues.

According to Carter, she is recommending $4,956,561 in local funding along with the additional $500,000 as a reserve supplement pending the results of the state budget.

Overall, the county's proposed school budget of $20,591.074, which includes anticipated state and federal funds, calls for $14,257,808 for instruction; $1,071,091 for attendance, administration, and health; $1,745,850 for operation and maintenance; $1,736,213 for transportation; $1,289,640 for cafeteria services; and $1,021,219 for technology.

However, Carter noted that the $20,591,074 school budget includes a $530,747 deficit.

Unlike in years past, the FY13 budget proposal does not list the school's debt service in the school budget but includes it with the county's debt service. That change, explained Carter, was recommended by the auditors.

Under the budget sub-heading of debt service, Carter listed $925,110 for the courthouse; $1,471,658 for the new elementary school on Route 20; and $926,166 for the Buckingham County Middle School.

After Carter completed her budget review, Supervisor John Staton, noting that last year the board donated $1,000 to the Hatton Ferry Fund in an effort to support the continued operation of the nation's remaining poled ferry, asked that a donation of $2,000 be included in the FY13 budget.

Along with the historical and unique aspects of the ferry, Staton shared that the ferry is beneficial for six or seven businesses on that end of the county.

He suggested that framed posters of the Hatton Ferry be placed in area businesses to promote not only the ferry but also other landmarks and attractions the county has to offer.

Staton added that doing so would not only highlight what the county has to offer but people passing through may decide to stay longer, which, in turn, would help local businesses.

The request to add the $2,000 donation for the Hatton Ferry to the proposed budget drew the board's unanimous support.

Subsequently, the board unanimously approved Carter's proposed budget, as amended with the additional $2,000, for advertisement and public hearing.

That action was followed by a unanimous vote to advertise the tax rates for calendar year 2012 for public hearing.

Those rates, which are the same as last year and based on $100 valuation, include $0.44 for real estate, $4.05 for personal property; $0.44 for public service corporation; $2.90 for machinery and tools; $1 for merchants capital; and $0.55 for aircraft.

Sheriff's Requests Approved

Carter shared a letter from Sheriff William Kidd about the possible purchase of three new 2011 Crown Victoria police cars available at Sheehy Ford.

In his letter, Kidd explained that they would be able to transfer equipment such as brush guards, prisoner seats, and cages from the department's older vehicles to the new ones at a substantial savings. He asked for advice on how to proceed with the matter in regards to the bidding process.

The request launched a debate about the pros and cons of purchasing the 2011 Crown Victoria police vehicles.

Supervisor Joe Chambers, stating that the Crown Victoria would no longer be manufactured, said the board needed to consider the insurance costs, getting parts at a reasonable price, and the gas mileage.

Staton stressed that although the vehicles are 2011, they are new and carry the manufacturer's full warranty. He added that the cost savings for purchasing the 2011 models would be in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000.

Supervisor Donnie Bryan offered that the deputies are trained to drive the rear-wheel-drive vehicles and would not have to take further training, which they would have to do if the sheriff's office purchased front-wheel-drive vehicles. He added, “There is no cost involved in re-outfitting the vehicle.”

When Talbert stressed that legally they are required to have three bids, Carter explained that they have to solicit or advertise for bids but sometimes they only receive one to two bids in response.

After a lengthy discussion, which also included questions about the cost of detailing the vehicles with decals/graphics, a motion previously made by Bryan to seek bids on the vehicles per the sheriff's request was amended to include seeking bids on the graphics as well as other necessary equipment. Subsequently, the board approved the motion as amended.

The board also approved a request from Sheriff Kidd for an appropriation of $1,000 from the Drug Enforcement savings account. According to the sheriff's request, the funds will be used in conjunction with drug-related investigations.

Before adjourning, the board, with a motion by Chambers, unanimously voted to seek bids for the timber in the industrial park.