Board Tables Jail Bills

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Concerns regarding unbudgeted spending arose once again during the Cumberland Board of Supervisors meeting as three requests for appropriations were tabled until a work session on the current budget occurs.

Anticipating budget work sessions scheduled for the two following nights, both of which are focused on drafting next year's budget, board members decided to schedule an additional work session for March 5 to focus on the current year's budget.

Although the board initially discussed meeting sooner to review the current budget, Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, suggested postponing the session until after the work sessions for the upcoming budget, giving administration time to “scatter through what pennies are left.”

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Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two, expanded on the same idea, suggesting the administration provide an idea of projected costs and recommendations for equivalent reductions for the current fiscal year.

Two bills from Piedmont Regional Jail precipitated the decision, with a combined total of $11,001.13. The two bills were tabled during the meeting, along with a request for a budget increase from the registrar's office, with the plan to return to them during the newly scheduled work session.

The past due invoice for the regional jail was for $4,535.83. The January expenses bill was for $6,465.30 and based on 6.74 percent, the proportion of Cumberland prisoners occupying the prison, according to the invoice.

According to Finance Director Howard Paras, the County has been able to absorb the cost of previous unexpected bills by finding money elsewhere in the budget. However, he stated that these new bills were the first requests for additional money.

When the “past due” bill from the jail was discussed, Banks expressed frustration, stating “well, at some point, we need to stop paying bills to the regional jail until they tell us it's the final bill…”

County Administrator Vivian Giles stated that she was not sure how many more past due bills could be expected.

Banks suggested that the board delay paying any bills from the jail. “I would say we withhold any payments to the jail until the jail can confirm what our, what our total is and what's going to bring us current…” he said.

Superintendent of Piedmont Regional Jail Ernest L. Toney informed The Herald that all of the “past due” invoices are now up-to-date, with the last “past due” invoice that was sent to Cumberland County being the final one.

Toney explained that the jail had outstanding bills that were past 30 days due. He said, “We asked them for the money to pay those bills up front. Instead the six county administrators and the jail board decided to break it up into three months, three-month payments.”

He stated that he met with all six county administrators and met on two occasions to work out the payments. Toney wanted to reiterate, “this wasn't something that we just sent them a bill without them knowing about it…These things are being done with the county administrators' knowledge and with the jail board members from each perspective county present at the jail board meeting.”

The jail's budget for the upcoming fiscal year is currently being reviewed by a committee of the jail board, according to Toney.

(Stay tuned for a forthcoming article, including an in-depth explanation from Piedmont Regional Jail Superintendent Toney of why the jail now needs to begin billing localities.)

Banks reiterated a theme he has raised in past board meetings, “I remain concerned about the appropriation of new money without reducing expenses in other parts of our budget. It seems like almost on a monthly basis we are asked to make these appropriations and I haven't seen any costs in other areas reduced…

“If we don't manage this County in an effective means and live within our means and spend within what we bring in, we are going to continue to have the same problems and the only response will be to impose more taxes upon our taxpayers. ”

He pointed out that although the board had said they would reduce costs in the past to make up for some of the increased appropriations, he had never heard it had actually been done.

Banks continued, “at what point are we going to get a pencil out and start gutting the budget?”

Paras stated that “year to date, this will be the first request that we are requesting the board for actual additional money. The requests in the past have been moved around from other places within the current operating budget.”

Ingle's motion to table both jail bills until next month and have administration check to see how much it would take to become current was approved unanimously by those present.

Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, did not attend Tuesday's meeting. Supervisor Parker Wheeler, District Five, who also sits on the jail board, left before the discussion of bills.

This is not the first time invoices from the jail have raised concerns for the board. During December's meeting, while they approved the payment of two invoices – one for the month of November for $6,941.40, the other for a “past due” amount of $4,535.83 – the board also floated the idea of reviewing the current budget.

Both Meinhard and Ingle had suggested during December's meeting that the board review the current budget during the January meeting, however it did not occur.

The request from the registrar that was also tabled by the board was for an additional $3,300 to fund part-time salaries and wages for the remainder of the fiscal year. In the application, it was stated that due to the 2010 Census, the Cumberland Registrar's Office assumed full-time status and additional funding for work hours was needed.

Additional Appropriations

The board approved a total of four appropriations during Tuesday's meeting.

Two appropriations were for funds that had already been received by the county and did not constitute additional spending, according to the request forms submitted to the board.

One appropriation was $374 for a Project Lifesaver monitor purchased by a citizen from the Sheriff's Department, according to the request. The other was $6,603 for the restoration of two index books at the Circuit Clerk's Office, which was completely funded by a grant from the Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Program, according to the application. Both were unanimously approved by the three board members present.

Another appropriation was for the expense of updating the County's Comprehensive Plan. According to the request form submitted by Interim Planning Director Rachel Falkenstein, $50,000 was appropriated to the Capital Projects Fund during the 2011/2012 fiscal year for the update.

The total appropriation was for $28,000, with Ingle and Meinhard voted in favor of and Banks abstaining.

The board also unanimously approved a request for $747 by the building inspection department to refund a permit applicant who decided to place a singlewide on his property instead of the one-story home for which he originally obtained a permit, according to the request.