After quiet public hearing, county budget moves closer to approval

By: Michael Campbell, News Editor

DINWIDDIE – After months of work sessions and meetings between county leaders, department heads and members of the community, the county’s proposed budget was presented to supervisors and the community at large Tuesday, still featuring relatively flat revenue with an emphasis on maintaining current services and keeping tax rates unchanged.

With state law prohibiting the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors from taking action on the budget during Tuesday’s regular meeting, it did give the board and residents a chance to see the $45 million proposed budget in a condensed form as County Administrator Kevin Massengill walked through their mindset during the budget building process.

“This is a shorter presentation than you’re probably used to because there are fewer new initiatives this year due to lower revenue,” the administrator reiterated.

According to Massengill, local revenue is only expected to increase by a modest $140,000 in the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2018 while state dollars are projected to see a slight decline, dropping by over $36,000 when compared to last year’s budgeted revenue.

Federal dollars are slated to increase slightly in Dinwiddie’s proposed budget by nearly $9,000, the county reported.

As Massengill transitioned into the analysis of projected expenditures in a flat revenue year, he explained that a number of considerations had to be taken into account as they evaluated the county’s finances, with the main objective being to maintain government services currently being offered by Dinwiddie into the next fiscal year.

Among those considerations, the costs of a full year of operations at the soon-to-open Ragsdale Community Center and plans for a new manned waste site in the Wilsons area, addressing the financial obligations related to funding of outside agencies and paying debt service on the new government complex approved in late 2016, and continuing to enhance the county’s law enforcement and fire protection by funding a full year of the Fire/Medics program that began in the spring and paying for the second year of the taser and body camera program for the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office were on the list of the county’s budget objectives.

Additionally, while some workforce development initiatives have been tabled due to the county’s financial climate, Massengill did say the county’s proposed budget made several key workforce investments, including bringing custodial services in-house, providing salary supplements to the Dinwiddie’s sheriff, treasurer and commonwealth’s attorney, and maintained the county’s health insurance employer match for their health coverage.

“The way we built this budget, we looked at county operations and worked to figure out how to do it better,” he explained. “We tried to be as frugal as possible.”

Out of $603,000 in capital expenditure requests made for possible inclusion in the proposed budget, only $301,100 of those made the cut, the biggest of which would provide $140,000 to the sheriff’s office for the purchase of four new patrol vehicles.

The department had asked to purchase six vehicles at a total of $210,000 during the upcoming fiscal year.

The sheriff’s office would also receive $41,000 to cover the second year of the taser and body camera project in the proposed budget.

The county’s department of information technology would receive $100,000 in funding for computer equipment and replacement, $10,000 would go to emergency communications for batteries, the department of parks and recreation would receive an additional $6,200 for security cameras, laptops and a printer for the Eastside Enhancement Center, and the animal control unit would get an extra $3,900 for four cameras, according to documents.

While items like a new front load truck for Dinwiddie’s waste management department at a cost of $90,000 were not funded in the proposed budget, $38,000 for 25 sets of personal protective equipment for the county’s volunteer fire department ended up being funded through a grant, providing cost savings for the county.

Switching gears to Dinwiddie Schools and their funding, Massengill reiterated plans to provide local funding of $14.3, which includes a step increase for teachers, along with an additional $150,000 for internal capital outlay.

Speaking to supervisors, the county administrator said a proposal pitched by Dinwiddie Schools superintendent David Clark to allow the county’s capital improvement plan line item for school buses, which totals $700,000, to be reduced by $150,000, with those dollars being infused into county’s local funding of the school division, allowing it to rise to over $14.5 million, but still short of the $15.2 million the school board had requested from Dinwiddie in their budget, could be done at their discretion.

As Massengill wrapped up the nearly half-hour presentation, he reminded county leaders while revenue is relatively flat, there are reasons to be optimistic about the county’s financial future.

“The last time [Anne] Howerton and I went through something like this was 2009 and we were looking at a deficiency of around $1.5 million,” he said speaking of the months following The Great Recession. “We didn’t know how far the bottom was. That is not the message for this year. We do have some economic development successes and some good indicators out there, but we are just not seeing it improve as quickly to our lines of revenue right now.”

With the budget and capital improvement plan now advertised and presented to the public formally, county leaders can continue to make changes, such as additions and deletions, but Massengill advised supervisors to be mindful that an increase in funding would require a subsequent decrease to something else since the county approved keeping taxes at their current levels last month.

Supervisors will take action on the Fiscal Year 2018 county budget during a special meeting on May 2.

Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing
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