Participating in budget season

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Community members will have multiple opportunities over the course of the month of April to witness, gain insight into and possibly influence the formation of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 county budget as the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors will be engaging in several work sessions open to the public.

Wade Bartlett

County Administrator Wade Bartlett explained in a Monday interview how citizens would benefit from attending these work sessions, which are held each year during budget season.

“They would learn how the county operates and where some of the money is going and why it’s going to these different organizations, or even within the county where we’re spending the taxpayers’ dollars for either services or equipment or repairs, they would hear that,” he said. “So they would have a better understanding of those expenditures and why they were needed.”

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He noted that the work sessions tend to last two to three hours, depending on what is being covered.

All budget work sessions are held on the third floor of the Prince Edward County Courthouse in either the Third Floor Conference Room or the Board of Supervisors’ Room.

The board held its first budget work session of the season Thursday afternoon, and its next session came Tuesday evening.

Bartlett cited that some sessions have set agendas, but a lot of them do not.

“Like when the schools come or when we have what we’ll call the charitable organizations, that’s pretty well set,” he said Monday. “But like the last meeting, we really didn’t have a set agenda. The set agenda was revenues, expenditures — that’s it. So we talked about different things that the board had questions on, not a lot. We went over health insurance, we did do that.”

The board had only had the budget for two days at that point, he mentioned, so with more time to review it, they will probably have more questions moving forward.

He noted that work sessions usually do not have a public comment option, as that is primarily the feature of the public hearing that comes a week prior to the adoption of the county and school budgets and tax rates. However, Bartlett highlighted exceptions and how citizens can have a voice between the work sessions even before the public hearing.

“If there’s something special, sometimes the board will allow citizens to speak, but usually those work sessions are for the board members to work through and ask questions and whatnot,” he said. “If a citizen wanted to ask a question, that would be up to the board and the board chair to allow them to ask it. But they could always ask a question before or after the meeting. Or the very next day, after they’ve thought about it, they could contact their board member or even myself, and we do the best we can to answer those questions.”

Bartlett described the average public participation during budget season and what motivates that participation.

“We do have people that come out on the public hearing, and usually the board chairman has a little preamble before that and goes over a few things, but most of the time what people are there for (is) one of two things — it’s either the tax rate, or it’s the school funding,” he said. “Every once in a while there’s an odd thing here or there, but by far the two items of biggest concern are those. … And when there are no proposed increases, those people don’t come, usually.”

The budget work session for the presentation of the school budget will be held Tuesday, April 9, at 5:30 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ Room. The next work session will be Tuesday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Conference Room.

Another session will follow Tuesday, April 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Conference Room, and following at 7 p.m. that same day will be a joint public hearing on the county and school budgets and tax rates in the Board of Supervisors’ Room.

Finally, the board will meet for a budget work session and the adoption of the county and school budgets and tax rates Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ Room.