By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Feb. 8, 2018 | 2:05 p.m.
MCKENNEY – A brisk morning in the heart of the Town of McKenney didn’t stop members of the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors and senior county staff from assembling at the Robert and Betty Ragsdale Community Center for a meeting with far-reaching implications for Dinwiddie going forward as they gathered for their annual board advance.
Entering its sixth year, the board advance serves as an opportunity for supervisors and staff alike to come together as they review the previous fiscal year, take a look at the current year, and look ahead to the upcoming year and years to come while offering time to discuss the county’s priorities and initiatives and other topics during focused conversations.
Leading the meeting was Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill, who served as a facilitator of conversation during the day-long meeting that saw discussion of topics to schools, public safety, budget considerations, and others served alongside lunch provided by Dinwiddie Supervisor Daniel Lee.
While the advance isn’t a formal budget work session, which start this month, talk about the budget made up a big part of the session as Massengill discussed the prospect of another year of relatively flat revenue in the 2019 Fiscal Year.
“When I first came to the county in the early 2000s, we saw double-digit growth in revenue back then but we are not in that climate now,” Massengill remarked as supervisors and county staff listened on. “Now, every decision we make has to be made looking further down the road with every aspect of government being carefully considered and what the return on investment is.”
As revenues remain flat, Massengill noted the county’s position in contrast to other communities it surrounds regarding tax increases and the fact that the county has maintained and added services, increased schools funding, and completed other initiatives without raising taxes.
“Roughly $200,000 is the value of a penny here and we have done that without touching taxes,” the county administrator remarked. “Most [other localities] have touched their tax rates and increased them.”
Regarding the upcoming financial year, Massengill noted several considerations supervisors should keep in mind as they begin working on the FY2019 budget, ranging from things such as increased costs from new buildings being online, such as the very building they had their meeting in, the Ragsdale Community Center in McKenney, two new buildings opening in 2018 with the health and human services building in the fall and public safety building the spring, and factoring in additional funding provided to the county school division during this financial year possibly as part of their local funding in FY2019.
Last year as part of the FY2018 budget, 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.
For the 2019 financial year coming up, Massengill noted that supervisors need to consider if the school division will start with that $150,000 already added to their budget or will their budget start $150,000 lower by not including that one-time funding.
In addition, the advance served an an opportunity to get a snapshot of different county operations and departments and how they are doing, including Dinwiddie Fire and EMS, public safety and other reports being made to supervisors, all in an effort to help supervisors be informed as they chart the course of the county based on their constituent needs going forward, a point driven home by Massengill in an interview.
“There are so many things going on so it is good for the Board to get an understanding of what we’re currently doing and we are in the process of, what we do annually, reevaluating things to see if programs are actually accomplishing things, are successful in regards to their stated goals,” Massengill remarked. “It is important for us, even before the budget process to report back to the Board on what that report card is and for the community to see if we are doing that. We feel this is the very foundation of being able to make good decisions.”
With broadband, economic development, working to grow revenue, and other topics all coming up during the day-long session, Board Chair Dr. Mark Moore said meetings like this play a vital role in moving the county forward beyond a few months or a year’s time.
“You have to plan for the years that are coming forward,” Moore said. “We talk about how the dollar is spent, in today’s environment, it has to be strategic, wise, and planned out ahead of time so there are no surprises.”
According to Massengill, roughly 41 cents of every taxpayer dollar goes to Dinwiddie County Schools, with the next largest portion, approximately 27 cents, going to public safety, which ranges from Fire and EMS, law enforcement, to building inspections.
Public works make up another seven cents of the dollar, with the remainder being made up of community development, county debt, and quality of life costs.
Chairman Moore added, “The county is moving forward and you have to plan as you’re going along. Smart planning is important planning.”
The county administrator noted an often overlooked aspect of a meeting like the one held last week: the venue. For Massengill, having their annual advance inside the county and at one of the county’s newest community assets in the Ragsdale Community Center was important.
“So many boards and councils will go outside of their community to have an advance like this,” he said. “So we look at this space, being close to the county seat, gives us the opportunity to use it and it is important that we are actually using the facility that provides such meeting space. It is hard to promote it to others if we aren’t using it ourselves.”
Massengill continued, “This venue is conveniently located, so if we were to meet in Williamsburg or Virginia Beach, it doesn’t afford the opportunity for citizens to come as conveniently as it would be here in McKenney. If we say we are here to serve the public, the public should be able to come and listen.”
The board now turns their attention to the budget-building process, with a meeting scheduled February as county staff works to prepare a proposed FY2019 budget, which is slated for consideration in the spring following the community’s input during a public hearing.