By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 19, 2018 | 1:55 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – Two weeks after a quiet public hearing that saw no public comments, supervisors are expected to take action on if they will adopt their coming year budget for Fiscal Year 2019, a budget that nearly mirrors last year’s budget with near-flat revenue increases and county taxes remaining the same for the coming year.
Despite being advertised to the community well in advance of the May 1 public hearing, supervisors and county administrator Kevin Massengill were met with a room of empty seats for their formal presentation of the FY2019 budget and, now-ten-year capital improvement plan. Even with the lackluster attendance, Massengill gave a detailed walkthrough of the county’s budget for the upcoming year, while using data points from the past to give guidance on what the county is looking at in the future.
When it comes to budget construction, a key aspect of its development is the establishment of the tax levies. Earlier this year, supervisors voted to not adjust the tax rate for FY2019, keeping the county’s real estate tax rate at 79 cents per $100 of assessed value, a level it has remained at since 2013. Over the past 36 years, the county’s real estate tax rate has rested as low as 68 cents from 2009 to 2010, to as high as 87 cents from 2005 to 2008 when funds were borrowed to help finance the construction of Sutherland Elementary School and Dinwiddie High School.
Since that time, the rate has remained within an 11-cent range, creeping up from 68 cents to 72 cents in 11 and up another seven cents in 2013 to its current level.
As a result of keeping tax rates where they are, county leaders had to build a budget that was able to maintain services while only seeing an increase of roughly three percent increase in local revenues paired with small decreases in state and federal dollars.
“This has probably been one of the more challenging budgets to put together this year,” County Administrator Massengill candidly said during an interview following the presentation. “We felt this budget is prudent, it does recognize even though revenue is better and the economy locally and nationally appears to be improving, we would like to get some of these projects to completion so we can see the total financial impact on the county.”
Echoing some of his points from last year’s presentation, Massengill told supervisors that the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is mindful of the fact that departments will continue to provide high-quality services to the customers of the county, but some new programs and initiatives may be placed on hold or be closely looked at before implementation to ensure that the resources being allocated to said initiative is truly getting the results that were expected.
“People at home should still see great, quality service here and our expectations haven’t changed,” Massengill said.
The public hearing on the FY2019 budget would be the last one delivered by Massengill inside the current county boardroom as, by this time next year, staff will have already been moved and settled into the new health, human services, and county administration building that is currently under construction a mere stone’s throw away from the Pamplin Administration Building. As a result, this year’s budget takes into consideration the operation of both the new administration building, but also the soon-to-open Dinwiddie Public Safety Building across the complex.
According to the county administrator, within the FY2019 budget, funding for security at the new government buildings is included, calling for two new full-time security positions for both facilities, along with part-time hours being provided. In addition, housekeeping and maintenance costs, such as employing janitorial staff and providing needed supplies are included in the coming year’s budget along with the usual electrical, heating and other costs associated with the addition of two new county assets to their roster of facilities. Massengill explained these figures were calculated as development of the project’s entire scope was looked at, culminating in the total project cost.
“When you’re looking at the total project costs, what you are looking at is what it takes for the whole project to be completed,” he said. “This is something that we have to look at before we ever move forward with a project.”
Massengill continued, “We knew there would be operational increases due to these buildings coming online. When we did this, we had to look at operations, the site, the building costs, the efficiencies that would come from the buildings and a lot of the efficiencies we see will not only help our staff but the community because now a citizen can do all of their business at the same campus for the first time ever.”
While county operations make up over 53 percent of general fund expenditures in Dinwiddie County’s coming year budget, the next largest chunk – 32 -percent – goes toward the funding of K-12 Education in the county, namely Dinwiddie County Public Schools and the county’s local transfer to the schools as part of its annual local funding.
According to county documents, this year’s operating fund transfer from the county to the school division will total just over $14.6 million, up by approximately $300,000 over the previous year. Dinwiddie Public Schools had asked for an increase of $1.4 million in local funding to help cover a pair of employee compensation-related costs to allow for an increase in the starting pay on the teacher salary scale and an increase to the rest of the scale to offset the adjustment and also to help pay for the full implementation of the unified pay scale approved by the school board in late 2017.
Massengill told county leaders that the county provided $150,000 back to the school division that was one-time funding in the previous fiscal year and then added an additional $150,000 to that to bring the total local funding contribution to the schools to $14.68 million. In addition, as part of the additional funding, Massengill said it is expected that the school division will pick up the salary and costs associated with a school resource officer and carry that in their budget.
In addition to the overall county budget, the May public hearing also saw the presentation of the county’s first-ever ten-year capital improvement plan, from FY2019 to FY2029. Earlier this year, the county administrator explained the rationale behind shifting to a ten-year CIP, noting that a number of projects on the traditional CIP, a range of five years, have been stuck on “year five” for five years and spreading out projects across a longer time period can allow for proper analysis of projects and determine when they can feasibly be completed and how they can be financed.
Within the county’s FY2019 CIP, over $4.3 million in projects are funded through the use of either general fund dollars, grant funding, project balances from other CIP projects where a savings was had, or through alternative funding, such as a loan.
Among the projects, $720,000 has been earmarked for alternative funding to help pay for new self-contained breathing apparatuses for the county’s fire crews, along with $180,000 to pay for new law enforcement vehicles, and $574,000 to pay for the continuing school bus replacement program.
In addition, alternative funding is being looked at as part of the ongoing government complex improvements as $200,000 has already been identified to help pay for the renovations to the current Pamplin Administration Building, which will become the new home of the Dinwiddie School Board office when county staff moves into the new county administration building, another $350,000 for government complex information technology costs, and $1 million to pay for various movable furniture, fixtures and other equipment for the government complex as, with the new buildings coming online during the FY2019 fiscal year resulting in new office space, these purchases will be needed as part of the building process.
Further into the county’s CIP, the county has identified dozens of possible projects for consideration to be placed in later years of the plan, including a roof replacement at Dinwiddie Elementary, the Pamplin building, and other facilities, paying the county’s share of proposed plant improvements at the Appomattox River Water Authority and South Central Wastewater Authority, and an Airport area and Eastern area fire station, some projects have yet to be placed on the plan or haven’t had a funding year determined, with a number of those projects carrying multi-million dollar estimated price tags.
As part of that process, Massengill, along with supervisors, the school board, the planning commission and the county’s industrial development board will be working together on evaluating those projects that haven’t had funding years tied to them to help garner more information about the project and other details that can help determine its place in the CIP.
“In June, I would like to get us all together, along with county staff to help garner participation and feedback,” Massengill said. “It is rare that we are able to get everyone together like this but I would rather this happen in the midst of the planning of the project. Some projects may get moved forward, some may warrant tax increases or other revenue sources may have to be identified, but we as a government should be able to tell the public when these improvements should be made.”
Due to state law, the board was unable to take any action on the budget as supervisors are required to wait a minimum of seven days before they can adopt or reject the county’s annual budget, resulting in the first opportunity for action being during their regular meeting on May 15.
If adopted, the new budget will take effect on July 1.