Budget Plan Offered

Published 5:06 pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – County Administrator Wade Bartlett presented a starting-point budget to the board of supervisors Tuesday afternoon that-should it not be changed in the board's work sessions in the coming weeks-holds tax rates as they are, level funds the county's schools, and dips into the reserves.

“For FY14, the board of supervisors strongly indicated they did not want to see any tax increases, and at the same time they wanted to maintain the current level of services to our citizens,” Bartlett wrote in a memo to the board, which he read in an abbreviated work session. “This budget meets those goals.”

Among the highlights:

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*Local revenues for school funding would remain the same at $8,106,652. (The school board's requested budget had sought an additional $1,387,919 or (factoring an Average Daily Membership of 2,180) or a total of $9,494,571 in local dollars.)

*Bartlett has recommended using $1.1 million from the balance in the Virginia Department of Transportation revenue sharing fund (a reimbursement to the general fund for an advance used to start the Route 786 project), $825,500 from the landfill construction fund, $239,783 from the water fund, $91,113 from the sewer fund (after deducting the non-cash depreciation account), $73,993 from forfeited assets and $18,431 from the balance in the Piedmont Court Services account.

*While they are seeing a rise in revenues, unemployment is down, high personal income is helping increase the collection rates, new construction is increasing and sales of vehicles are strong. Bartlett also cited a health care renewal increase of 16 percent and expenses associated with the regional jail “will be greater than all the revenue increases.”

*The county administrator has penciled in $700,000 for the regional jail, but he noted there are still two major issues that must be resolved before the jail can adopt their budget-medical staffing protocols (the jail, it was reported, is finalizing requirements with the Department of Justice and hopes that they will accept certain protocols that can save hundreds of thousands of dollars) and revenues from participation by Chesapeake. Bartlett reported that Chesapeake “has signed a contract with the jail to house some prisoners” but that they are “still evaluating the number of prisoners they would like to house at the jail.” The jail was also hopeful that an anticipated increase for medical services would be lower than the $400,000 anticipated. Bartlett's budget did not factor a decrease in medical costs or an increase in revenues for the jail.

*Bartlett has recommended a two percent pay increase for County workers, which does not include the department of social services. The state, he cited, is providing additional funds for the department for a pay increase and he has recommended the County's funding for the agency for operation stay at $578,943.

*While the County would be asked to chip in a 16.1 percent increase to keep the same health insurance (or $140,000), Bartlett's proposal assumes a move from Key Advantage with Expanded Benefits to Key Advantage 500. Employees would have the option to pay the difference to keep their current plan. He reported that they have also bid out the County's health insurance to see if a more attractive alterative exists for workers and the County.

*Proposed capital expenditures total $1,150,500 and include funds for the closure of the landfill cell ($1,150,500), $200,000 for a new garbage truck and $120,000 for vehicles.

*While most outside agencies would receive level funding, Bartlett noted that, after discussion with the director of the health department, funding was reduced 2.5 percent from the requested amount or $8,121. He has also recommended library funding be reduced to fiscal year 2011 levels-$166,559, or a reduction of $25,597-and eliminating funding for Piedmont Senior Resources ($1,616) and for HOPE ($9,500). He has also recommended $10,000 in new funding for the DownTown Farmville Main Street Program.

*Bartlett has also proposed changing the process for funding fire programs-specifically recommending the elimination of the practice of budgeting fire programs funds in the initial budget process.

“It is estimated the Fire Programs funds provided in (fiscal year 2014) will be $40,506,” he detailed. “I am recommending a new procedure be established wherein when the fire program funds are received the fire association will be notified of the amount. The fire association will then provide the County with the division of the fire program funds by company. The companies will then provide the county with invoices at least equal to the amount of funding they have been allocated. The County will review the invoices to ensure they are valid expenditures in accordance with fire program regulations. Once verified, the invoices will be paid from a new expenditure line contained in the Volunteer Fire Department portion of the budget and titled 'Fire Program Funds.'”

Bartlett also recommended funding to all companies, with the exception of Farmville's department be reduced from $68,000 to $61,249-effectively decreasing expenditures by $40,506-aiming to ensure the process is budget neutral. If the fire association distributes the funds equally, each of the six companies would still receive $68,000 as they have in the past. The Farmville department's funding would be reduced by $24,403, which Bartlett offered is equal to fire program funds received from the Town.

The Current Year

While the current fiscal year won't end until June 30, Bartlett estimated the fund balance will increase by $1,232,434 to $12,290,869 (which includes $408,493 in the school cafeteria fund and $1,468,538 in the landfill construction fund). He also projects a slight increase in the county's fund balance of $133,068 and end with a cash reserve of $7,660,623.

The 2012-13 budget had called for a draw on the fund balance of $550,597 but the board had approved additional appropriations that would have increased the draw from the fund balance to a total of $803,972. However, Bartlett also noted, “The ability to absorb these expenditures will be the result of revenues exceeding forecasts by approximately $140,000 and expenses being less than the budgeted amounts by almost $797,000.”

Collections of general property taxes were up $190,839 and local sales tax increased $111,769 plus the Comprehensive Services Act ($173,000), refuse ($67,000), planning ($69,000) and general property budgets were under-expended.

“Almost every department in the County has under-expended its budget,” Bartlett detailed.

In Other News…

Tuesday's work session was a brief one as supervisors were invited to hear Longwood University's new president W. Taylor Reveley IV speak, which helped hasten the pace of the presentation.

Entities requesting donations from the County will have an opportunity to present their request to the board on Tuesday, April 2 beginning at 2 p.m. The board has also scheduled a budget work session/school budget presentation for 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 9. Budget work sessions are also scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 and 3 p.m. Monday, April 22. Supervisors are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the school and county budgets on Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m.

The board is expected to approve a final budget at their 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 work session.

Supervisors agreed to replace the HVAC system at the County's agriculture building. Bartlett reported that he had received three estimates, with the lowest at $8,351. Any capital item over $5,000, it was noted, has to be approved by the board according to policy. Funding can be transferred from various accounts for the purchase.

Bartlett also noted the director of Social Services would like to divide one office into two for privacy issues. The board approved the request; the County will fund the improvement from its budget.