No Budget Decision Yet
CUMBERLAND – After months of working on the County's 2012-2013 fiscal year budget proposal, Cumberland's Board of Supervisors will still have to take up the issue of actually adopting a budget during its May meeting.
The adoption of the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget was on Tuesday's agenda but the motion to approve the numbers presented failed on a two-to-three vote.
Once Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, made the motion to adopt the proposed budget, Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, began to voice his reservations about the numbers presented and what could actually come to fruition once the state approves a final budget.
Later, Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, and Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two, also voiced their concerns about the budget proposal.
Now, Cumberland's Board of Supervisors will, again, revisit the budget during its May 8 meeting.
The Board already held its public hearing on the proposed tax rates, budget, and capital improvements plan on April 4 and, at that time, County Administrator Vivian Giles presented the budget totals to the public.
On Tuesday, immediately following the adoption of the proposed tax rates, Supervisor Wheeler made a motion to adopt the 2012-2013 budget as presented.
Afterwards, Chairman Meinhard said, “The motion has been made that we adopt the 2012-2013 budget. Is there any discussion?”
At that time, Supervisor Ingle replied, “I'd like to ask a question. Have we found out anything concrete from the General Assembly as far as funding or any other support that our budget is based upon? I haven't seen anything…”
Giles noted, “Late today, I received an email from some of the folks monitoring legislature from VACo with respect to proposed school systems. It was proposed to school systems but, once again, just proposals and certainly nothing set in stone at this point. So nothing specific, no.”
Ingle continued on about the state's budget and said, “I would love to see what their final results is as far as the budget is…because we want to make sure that the school is taken care of but I'd like to see what their final word is too in case there is additional funding, then we might be able to work with other agencies within the County to try to get on board with them but not to slight the school in any way shape or form.”
Subsequently, Osl responded a solution to Ingle and offered, “I suggest the adoption of the budget where it doesn't preclude us from any future amendments to the budget. We have adjustments to be made when we hear down from the state on information or appropriations that are to be made or not to be made in the future…”
Ingle then asked about the County's timeframe for adopting a budget.
“That's been a point of discussion in the local government attorneys blog, for lack of a better word, the distinction or the splitting of hairs is the requirement that a budget be adopted,” advised Giles. “The only entity that has such a requirement is the schools. The school has to adopt a budget. However, the question becomes if you do not what would be the sanctions or the penalty. So, the schools, it's a little bit more stringent on them. However, there doesn't seem to be any penalty that is truly imposed. With that being said, the Board of Supervisors, the County, is under no time constraints. The only issue is by July 1 if you don't have a budget that you can appropriate funds, you can still operate, you just don't have any appropriated funds potentially.”
Giles continued, “Ideally, no later than June 30 midnight.”
Ingle then asked Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Amy Griffin, who was sitting in the audience, about time constraints on the school system if the Board did not adopt the budget during Tuesday's meeting.
Dr. Griffin explained that the school system, historically, has issued contracts in May to teachers.
“We cannot issue any new contracts until you appropriate funding to us,” she explained.
Later, Dr. Griffin told the Board that the school division issues contracts to teachers in May and contracts to support staff in June.
“The real issue is the appropriation of funds to operate,” suggested Giles. “Even with that, there is really no penalty associated. The Code says 'shall' about the budget.”
Ingle then referred to the motion that was already on the floor and said, “I would just ask for any consideration to, maybe, give us another day in the not-too-far future to keep from messing up the school's contracts.”
At that point Wheeler asked, “Is there something about the budget that you'd like to change, Mr. Ingle?”
Ingle responded, “Well, in fact, this is just guesses and hopes that, for instance, the state comes through with more support for the schools that we might be able to adjust the amount that we give the school to be able to take care of some of the shortfall that we are looking at or give some more support to, or proper support to, the Sheriff's Office or other agencies that we do have to take care of.”
Wheeler then pointed out that the budget is balanced in its current form and that future adjustments could be made once the budget is adopted before appropriations are made before July 1.
The budget, in the form that's being considered for adoption, includes a general fund reserve amount of $198,830 and a rollover balance of $200,000. The total general fund revenue totals $14,213,797. It also includes the entire budget requested amount from the School Board for the school division and a grand total for general fund expenditures of $14,213,797. Cumberland's total proposed budget amounts to $28,810,553.
Osl also noted that other County departments and activities also rely on the adoption of the budget such as the Treasurer's Office and the Commissioner of Revenue's Office.
“The biggest issue I think we have, separate from the issues discussed so far, is the tax rates,” said Osl. “We do have work that needs to be done in the County. There's generation that Ms. French has to do. As well as Mr. Pfeiffer in getting bills out and so those tax rates wouldn't have an underlying budget supporting them. They would be done independently, I guess, or separately… That has gotten tied in, like now. If we don't get that done, like now, then the County can't move forward with work that has to be done in the Treasurer's Office and the Commissioner of Revenue's Office.”
Chairman Meinhard then flipped the discussion and commented, “I think we need to go back and revisit some of the things that we've worked on in the budget in terms of the money that we have utilized in that budget out of our reserve. I think that we would be better served if we could leave more money in the reserve instead of looking at that to be our operating expenses this year…I think we need to go back and revisit that towards some places that might allow us to reduce some expenditures.”
Wheeler addressed the proposed budget once more and said, “We have a sound budget at this present time. It's taken a lot of work to get here.”
Meinhard then called for a vote on the motion.
The motion to adopt the 2012-2013 budget failed on a two-to- three vote. Osl and Wheeler voted in favor of the budget and Banks, Ingle, and Meinhard voted against the motion.
“We'll reconsider the adoption of the budget at a later time,” said Meinhard after the vote.
The Capital Improvements Plan, which was also slated for adoption, was discussed.
“I move that we bring that up for adoption when we bring the budget back up for adoption,” said Meinhard.
The vote to bring up the plan at a later date passed on a three-to-two vote. Supervisors Osl and Wheeler voted in opposition.
After conducting the rest of the County's business items on the agenda and during the Board's comment segment, Supervisor Wheeler brought the Board up to speed on the Piedmont Regional Jail and the jail's current financial concerns.
Wheeler sits on the Jail Board and represents Cumberland.
“The jail is having a little financial difficulty,” he explained to the Supervisors. “They are currently owed about $933,000 for services for keeping the inmates of the federal government. They are out looking for more contracts-to get more contracts.”
Wheeler also noted, “They have never asked any of the Counties for monies and have donated…back to the counties…If they should not be able to land contracts and if they cannot get their hands on their money, then they might have to ask the Counties for money and they are asking for the Counties not to have money for them but to be able to set it aside, just in case.”
The amount that would be needed in the event it was asked for from Cumberland County would be $26,800, said Wheeler.
“…I think they will be okay. I will keep the Board abreast…It was just something that I wanted the Board to be aware of,” he said.
Osl added, “They've done a remarkable job over the years. They've had these struggles over the past and have done a remarkable job with getting additional inmates and taking care of their issues…”
Banks addressed his concerns and said, “I'd like to take the opportunity to remind the Board that we are a poor county and when the Board considers a budget several $100,000 over what we are going to take in I don't even think it should be considered. And so if we delay the budget are we going to delay the budget to improve it or are we going to delay it simply to approve it in its current form a month from now?”
He added, “As we look at issues for this County, is the County really suppose to support the costs of the jail because the federal government is not paying their bills?”
Wheeler spoke up and said, “Yes, it's a statute in the Virginia law…”
“I believe it's my opportunity to speak,” responded Banks.
Wheeler noted that he was just answering Banks' question.
“Well, I'm posing my question to the community,” continued Banks. “Mr. Chairman, can I have the floor? I've shared my concerns with the Board over the budget and I continue to disagree with the funding and I continue to disagree with spending money we don't have. It's a simple fact, we are a poor county. To come and ask poor people to give money and to spend money we don't have. To go out and incur more debt…we're mistreating the taxpayer and we're mistreating the community…”
Banks noted that he's “disappointed.”
“I want everyone to know I'm disappointed,” he said. “I oppose the budget and I oppose any new requests for our County, whether it comes from the jail, whether it comes from the church or whether it comes from the supermarket down the street. I don't care who it comes from. We don't have the money to give away. We don't have the money to pay our bills…I believe the Board is neglecting the taxpayer and I just want to make that known-where I stand on the budget.”
Before adjourning the meeting, the question was raised as to when the Board would actually revisit the budget for adoption.
It was decided that the Supervisors would not meet again before its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 8.
“Being that there could be an answer as far as the General Assembly and said parties I would like to see us come back and revisit the approval of the budget. Is that something that we have the time to wait until the next monthly meeting or should we possibly recess to be able to come back and do our approval on the budget?” asked Ingle.
“I don't want to cause the schools anymore interruption than possible,” added Ingle.
Dr. Griffin noted that the school system could have contracts ready to go out before the meeting in anticipation of the Board's adoption on May 8.
She advised, “We cannot issue any contracts to staff members until you all adopt a budget.”
She also noted that the new school year starts on August 8 and teachers start back to school on July 30.
“As long as we can get contracts out but as a teacher you can get a job somewhere else-they can do that, now, if they don't have a contract,” advised Dr. Griffin about the uncertainty of waiting until later to issue contracts. “They are free rein… You run the risk…”
Osl noted that the schedule was set for the Board to adopt the budget on Tuesday evening so that various agencies, departments, and the school would be able to meet their requirements and “move forward.”
“If you could approve a budget May 8 and we could have the contracts all ready to go…,” advised Dr. Griffin.
“Good. If you are okay with that, that's all I want to hear. I don't want to jeopardize your operations,” concluded Osl.