County levies to remain level in coming fiscal year

By Susan Gibbs

Taxes won’t be going up in the coming fiscal year.

“The real estate levy will remain level at $0.69 per $100,” said Greene County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clarence “Buggs” Peyton Tuesday, April 24.

Chairman of the Greene County Board of Supervisors Clarence "Buggs" Peyton

The announcement followed the annual public hearing on the county’s proposed $53,393,344 general operations budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013, held at the William Monroe High School Performing Arts Center.

In addition, said Peyton, the Public Service Corp. levy will remain level at $0.69 per $100, as will the personal property levy at $5 per $100, the Industrial Machinery & Tools levy at $2.50 per $100 and Except Farm Machinery & Livestock at $0.

He noted that the proposed budget is up less than one percent from last the current Fiscal Year’s budget of $51,372,170. He also spoke to recent reports that the county is in excellent financial condition due to audit results received last month from county auditors Robinson, Farmer and Cox Associates.

The reports indicate that: as a percentage of the annual budget unreserved funds have risen from 0.4 percent to 31.5 percent; the county’s unreserved funds have risen from $.02 million to $16.2 million; the general fund balance has enjoyed a 394 percent increase, going from $3.3 million to $16.3 million; net assets have increased 125 percent; and the county’s debt service has dropped 79.3 percent.

Peyton said those funds are to be safeguarded.

“The reserve fund has been labeled with many names, including ‘found money’, ‘rainy day fund’, and ‘money pot’,” he noted. “But let me assure you that the policies developed by the Board to govern the reserve are the only safety net that protects citizens from immediate and ongoing tax hikes.”

The reserve fund balance includes, “unassigned fund balance reserve, cash flow service, capital outlay to include water/sewer debt and the proposed water impoundment project as well as funds necessary to fund existing debt service and suggested capital improvement projects.” Peyton explained.

In addition, the county has been hit hard by new legislation regarding the Virginia Retirement System, Peyton said. Both county and school system employees hired before July 1, 2012 statewide must, for the first time, contribute 5 percent of their pay to the VRS. That employee contribution is to be covered by a corresponding 5 percent increase in pay by their employers. Localities can implement the pay increase all at once or break it up into 1 percent increments over five years.

Decisions regarding funding proposals for the VRS were to be delayed pending further information from the state, but will be made prior to the Board’s May 8 meeting, when the county budget will be approved and adopted, Peyton said.

Peyton also addressed the Greene County Public School District’s reported $2 million budget shortfall, due, according to Greene County School Board Chairman Troy Harlow, to: anticipated cuts in federal and state funding; an expected health insurance increase of at least 10 percent; $500,000 for additional personnel; and the increase in retirement costs.

The Public School System’s current budget is $30,574,549, of which the county has funded $11.7 million by appropriation. According to the proposed county budget dated April 2 and published on the county’s Web site, the county proposes to increase that allocation to $13,876,529 in the coming fiscal year.

In that document, the local allocation to the public school system for FY2012-2013 is to be $13,876,529. That same document recorded $15,717,233 from the Commonwealth; $1,612,993 from the Federal government; and $1,337,733 in miscellaneous revenue, bringing total funding for the public school system to $32,868,895.

“The Commonwealth decreased funding, the Federal government decreased funding, however, the miscellaneous revenue funding increased by $435, 440,” Peyton said April 23. “This increase is very positive and should be considered new money provided the government unfunded programs and mandates associated with the lost jobs bill are relaxed or discontinued. The local citizens should not be taxed or held responsible for backfilling the loss of funding for specific programs previously supported by the State and Federal governments.”

He alluded to a request from the school board for appropriation of funds from the county’s reserve fund, saying: A “request to appropriate funds from the current reserve balance to pay off selected debt obligation with the intent to divert additional funding to the school operational budget would upset the existing financial stability of the county.”

Peyton warned that by the end of the current budget cycle, with the county’s water/sewer debt, expenditures of $5.3 million for the school system’s athletic and performing arts improvements, emergency service needs, and other obligations, the county’s debt service could jeopardize the financial well-being of the county and mandate tax hikes in the near future.

Only three people addressed supervisors during the public hearing portion of the meeting: Harlow, for the School Board; Deborah Willenborg, Greene’s trustee on the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Board, and Don Pamenter, who represents the county on the Jefferson Area Board for Aging.

“I was hoping to come here and tell you all that we’ve got all kinds of money, but that’s not the case,” Harlow told supervisors April 23. “We got our budget numbers late last week. We did get some extra money, but it was in the neighborhood of $100,000, not the millions that we need. We’re still working on our numbers and we’ll probably have a better idea (before the county budget is finalized) next month.”

Willenborg asked supervisors to allocate another $11,000 to the library.

Deborah Willenborg

Currently, the county allocates $321,705 to the regional library system. According to the proposed budget dated April 2, it has proposed increasing that allocation to $330,635 for FY2012-2013.

Willenborg pointed out that next to the public schools, the library is the most used public space in the county, and suggested that the additional requested amount be taken out of new sales tax revenues.

“Greene County Library visits, including patrons coming in to use computers or to attend library programs, is up 25 percent in the last five years,” she said. “Coincidentally in the same five years income from sales tax in Greene County has increased $600,000. I’m not talking about total revenue, but just money the county received from sales tax. We have long been promised that Greene County would reap big rewards from sales tax revenues brought in from businesses like Walmart, Lowes, CVS and McDonald’s. Here is a perfect opportunity to put that increased revenue to good use.”

Willenborg told supervisors that the requested additional $11,000 would enable the library to be open 48 hours per week, rather than the current 40, and that “the timing couldn’t be better.”

She reminded them that Piedmont Virginia Community College is renovating the second floor in the library building in preparation for the opening of its satellite campus in Stanardsville in August. She also noted that PVCC President Frank Friedman had said that having the library downstairs from the PVCC classrooms will be a “tremendous benefit for our students.”

But, Willenborg told supervisors, “The sharing facilities services can only happen if the library is open with a schedule that compliments” that of the PVCC center.

On behalf of JABA, Pamenter told the Board, “At the proposed level of funding Greene County will remain the (community) that provides the least amount of funding for seniors on a per capita basis in (the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson).

“You are already familiar with many of the services JABA renders to its 1,500 seniors here in Greene County,” Pamenter said. “We provide food for the homebound and those who come to the Center for social mixing and friendship, and assistance with Medicare and government services. It was very disappointing to see the county’s draft budget that shows only a 2.4 percent increase for seniors in Greene.”

The current county budget allocates $83,242 in local funds to JABA. The proposed budget would up that amount to $85,236.

“JABA is budgeted to receive only 4.5 percent more than it did six years ago,” Pamenter noted. “Meanwhile the number of seniors in Greene is 32 percent higher. Our senior population is growing rapidly and the (current) economy has created far more needs (such as prescriptions and food).”

Supervisor Jim Frydl

Supervisor Jim Frydl responded to remarks concerning the county’s additional sales tax revenue.

“Sales tax revenues have been of benefit to the county,” Frydl said. “They have allowed the county to make some needed capital improvements; to fund the staff and to continue to fund the different departments at the required level without having to count on the homeowners to bear the additional cost.

“But there is not a big pile of money that is above and beyond everything,” Frydl continued. “In reality, at the same time we have gotten that money from additional sales tax, we’ve probably lost double that amount of money in state funding.”

Supervisors may consider additional allocations prior to finalizing the budge on May 8. The current proposal is available for viewing at http://www.gcva.us/dpts/admn/bosmins.htm in the Board Packet at the top of the schedule for Board of Supervisors meetings and agendas.

 

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