Retiring supervisor expresses concern for county’s future

By Susan Gibbs

Clarence “Buggs” Peyton, known for his concern for senior citizens, particularly those living on fixed incomes, has announced his decision to retire after an eight-year stint on the Greene County Board of Supervisors.

Retiring Supervisor Clarence "Buggs" Peyton

Born and bred in Stanardsville, Peyton served on the Board for four years in the late 1970s and then won a seat again in November 2005. Reelected to represent his home district in 2009, Peyton served as vice-chairman of the Board for many years, and twice as its chairman.

Even though the 67-year old is now vacating his seat for good, as he puts it, “to spend more of my leisure time with Mrs. Peyton,” he remains concerned for the future of all Greene County taxpayers.

One of his concerns is to prevent the decline in the numbers of citizens he has worked so long and so hard to protect – which assessments released last year by the Skyline Community Action Partnership say is expected to decline due to a lack of services and housing to meet their needs – while the county’s higher-income population increases.

Peyton alluded to the recent increase in property taxes for $.69 per $100 to $.72 per $100 when he told Eye on Greene:

“The tax and spend mentality over the past two years is very disturbing and has seriously jeopardized the county’s financial stability as well as the strength put in place by previous conservative measures,” he said.

He also addressed a stream of federal and state mandates that have not been fully funded for a number of years, and which, as a result, have been draining county coffers.

“The continuation of back-filling federal and state funding shortfalls by raiding the reserve fund and increasing taxes on the backs of retirees, citizens on fixed incomes and limited income households while tolerating sluggish economic times will surely result in unintended and regrettable consequences.”

And it is not just the county’s low income population that will be affected.

Another of Peyton’s concerns is for the Greene County residents Skyline CAP’s assessments state that are frustrated with stringent local regulations that they believe are contributing to high prices for both home ownership and rentals.

Those local regulations include water-sewer hook-up fees that are higher than those in any other locality in the region.

The fees — $20,000 for each new residence to hookup to water-sewer service, and about $200,000 for each new commercial establishment to hookup –were set with the intention of paying the county’s debt on the water treatment plant in Ruckersville that went into operation in 2006.

But that was before recession struck, when developers were flocking to the county to take advantage of the business community’s northern expansion up Route 29 from Albemarle.

Perhaps as a result, the Skyline CAP assessments indicate that new employment opportunities in the county have been outpaced by business closings, and that a longer commute to work puts additional strain on household budgets from transportation costs.

These taxpayers, Peyton said, should not carry the burden of the county’s debt alone.

The debt on the Ruckersville facility, including principal and interest, now stands at about $29 million and the county is about to commit to another $40 million in debt to finance a reservoir intended to lure industries and businesses to Greene.

Last spring, before he announced his decision to retire, in response to questions asked by Eye on Greene, Peyton addressed those fees; commented on how the county’s coffers have been affected by the lack of revenue caused by a decline in development, and what he would like to see done about the situation (http://eyeongreene.com/greene-supervisors-address-tough-issues-in-tough-times/).

At that time Peyton said: “The current debt service payment model for the sewer project was based exclusively on hook-fees and is failing due in-part to the sluggish economy. Therefore, payments must be drawn down from the general fund once the reserve fund is exhausted which, in fact could occur at year end.

“The most important and immediate goal is to finalize the property acquisition for water impoundment and immediately open the gate for rooftops in approved areas,” Peyton continued at that time. “Secondarily, increase water rates for residential, revisit the residential sewer rate to consider rebates for some of the three recent increases and, most importantly, work a plan to have the Greene County Economic Development Authority assist or subsidize small businesses with hook-up fees until a conversion plan to a metered service can be implemented. Also, consideration should be given to earmarking portions of newly-generated business tax revenues to assist in support of the infrastructure.”

And that infrastructure needs work. At a county budget hearing earlier this year last spring, Ruckersville Volunteer Fire Company representatives told supervisors that unless something was done, the station was likely to close its doors in about two years.

All three fire departments in the county – located in Dyke, Ruckersville and Stanardsville – are staffed by volunteers and dependent upon the county, as well as donations, for operating expenses.

In addition, the county is facing the possibility that the state will ask it to take over maintenance of more Greene’s secondary roads, and, it has been consistently required to shoulder more of the burden inflicted by mandates, referenced above, which pertain in large part to education.

Aside from the mandates placed by higher governments on the county’s responsibility to the public school district, there is work to be done that Peyton has stated more than once in public session that will undoubtedly affect the county’s coffers. The Ruckersville Elementary School needs an addition, and the William Monroe High School cafeteria must be enlarged.

The county is also obligated to pay its share of the $17 million addition to the Central Virginia Regional jail … and the list goes on.

In his latest interview with Eye on Greene, Peyton, who at times in the past has resisted new residential development, emphasizes the importance of addressing the county’s water-sewer fees in order to attract the rooftops that will attract the commercial development that will lower the financial burden on homeowners.

Now that he is vacating his seat for good, Peyton stresses the need for supervisors to form a unified body that will work to ensure that the county will continue to home to an economically diverse population – which will not just live in the county, but work and shop in Greene as well.

“Every supervisory district and the Town (of Stanardsville) have somewhat different demographics,” Peyton says. “But the primary focus must be aimed toward governing for the will and good of all the citizens. The immediate and short-term goals as suggested by the already established comprehensive plan mark the road-map and the urgent need for commercial growth and additional rooftops in the designated areas is essential for the financial future of the county.”

Editor’s Note: The Skyline CAP community assessments referred to in this post can be accessed at: http://skylinecap.org/documents/2012-CommunityNeedsAssessmentReport-withletter.pdf and at http://skylinecap.org/documents/BuildingLivesBuildingtheFuture10-2012.pdf.

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