By Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – Months of research and analysis culminated in the board of supervisors’ decision to approve their Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the upcoming year, a budget that features relatively flat revenue and an emphasis on maintaining current services.
The primary hallmarks of the $45 million budget approved by supervisors this month are tax rates remaining at their current levels and the lack of any significant increase in revenue coming into the county during the next fiscal year, with revenue in FY 2018 nearly mirroring current-year revenue expectations.
During last month’s public hearing, County Administrator Kevin Massengill walked through the numbers, noting 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.
Those considerations included the recently-opened Robert and Betty Ragsdale Community Center and its full-year of operations, plans for a new manned waste site in the Wilsons community, along with addressing the county’s obligations related to funding outside agencies and paying debt service on the new government complex that was approved for construction late last year.
In terms of funding outside organizations, requests for funding were reduced by over $30,000 by either level-funding or reducing the amount of money going to different organizations in the upcoming fiscal year. The county also opted not to fund new requests for outside funding, with The Improvement Association and Southeast 4H Education Center receiving none of the combined $72,000 in funding they requested from the county in the adopted budget.
Additionally, the budget sought to continue the county’s efforts 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.
In a flat revenue year, the now-adopted budget does not feature many new initiatives, such as workforce development, and saw capital expenditure requests by county departments cut in half in the final budget product.
As part of the budget, the county is bringing custodial services in-house, providing salary supplements to Dinwiddie’s sheriff, treasurer and commonwealth’s attorney, and maintaining the county’s health insurance employer match for employee health coverage.
In terms of departmental requests, over $603,000 in capital expenditure requests were scaled back to just over $301,000, 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.
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.
In terms of funding for Dinwiddie Schools, a proposal to increase the county’s local contribution to the school division transferring money from a capital improvement line item to the schools’ local funding request was approved as part of the budget.
Pitched by Dinwiddie Schools Superintendent David Clark, in an effort to increase the county’s local contribution, money in Dinwiddie’s capital improvement plan earmarked for school bus purchases totaling $700,000 was reduced to $550,000 in the adopted budget, with the difference being transferred to Dinwiddie Schools as part of the county’s local funding totaling $14.5 million.
That $14.5 million in local funding is well short of the $15.2 million the Dinwiddie School Board had requested from the county during the budget building process.
As the long process drew to a close, Massengill said he was pleased with the product laid out before residents and adopted by their elected officials.
“Staff and I, are proud of the method of developing a budget for the County,” he remarked. “The process is open and collaborative allowing the Board of Supervisors, staff, constitutional officers, public schools outside organizations, and citizens to work together to establish priorities in spending. In Dinwiddie County, we are very blessed to have a committed workforce and a management structure that truly understands how to work within the parameters of a budget.”
For the county administrator, the message of the 2018 Fiscal Year budget was about “delivering the very best in local government services and programs” while facing the reality of slow revenue growth.
“Collectively, the County government and other stakeholders have made significant strides towards making the local government more accountable, more representative of the times, and more strategic in our approach to making Dinwiddie a better community,” he remarked.
During his remarks to the board at last month’s public hearing, Massengill balanced the reality of flat revenue with a forward-looking message about the county’s future, pointing a number of key economic indicators that bode will for the county’s future, such as the new ALDI distribution center and regional headquarters slated to open next year and the continued financial benefit of having tech and retail titan Amazon set up shop in the county with its fulfillment center and longtime employer Walmart Distribution Center continuing its successful operations in the county.
As business and industry generate approximately $15.8 million in tax revenue for the county annually, Massengill still sees room for additional growth opportunity across the county.
“While Amazon took the lion’s share of space within the Commerce Park, there are currently a few retail sites still available in the front of the park just off of US Route 460,” he explained. “Since Amazon’s announcement in 2012, Dinwiddie County has experienced just over $80 million in capital investment and 1,047 new jobs created through both new companies and the expansion of existing business and industry,” noting commercial and retail growth beyond the U.S. Route 460 corridor along nearby U.S. Route 1 with the addition of Tractor Supply Company, Joe’s Steak and Seafood and Taco Bell near Interstate 85.
“Dinwiddie County is strategically situated near the I-85/I-95 crossroads and U.S. 460,” he said. “This proximity to the interstate makes the County easily accessible to major markets up and down the East Coast. It is for this reason, the County has been attractive to warehouse/distribution industries.”
With the 2018 Fiscal Year budget now adopted, the budget construction process takes a hiatus of several months as leaders won’t begin preparing for the 2019 Fiscal Year budget until November, allowing Massengill to reflect and thank those who helped make the budget process as smooth as possible.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all individuals that were involved in developing next year’s budget,” he said. “I am extremely impressed and proud of the true commitment and dedication of the Dinwiddie County workforce for consistently demonstrating their ability to address our financial challenges by embracing changes and improving the services and programs we provide.”
The budget and new fiscal year will begin in Dinwiddie on July 1.