By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 11, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – The county’s budget for the next fiscal year has been formally adopted after a quiet public hearing last Tuesday saw Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill present a budget focused on maintaining current services while also making key investments in public safety both in the upcoming year and for the future.
Supervisors voted unanimously to approve their FY2020 budget, well ahead of the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 during a special meeting on May 7 at the county government center.
Last week, Dinwiddie supervisors met as part of the required public hearing on the FY2020 budget, which allows residents the opportunity to voice their opinions on the funding priorities detailed in the county’s budget for the coming financial year. For at least the second straight year, no residents spoke either for or against the budget as the board room was largely empty for last Tuesday evening’s meeting.
Even though attendance was sparse, last week’s meeting still afforded County Administrator Massengill the opportunity to present the entirety of the FY2020 budget, which sought to continue the county’s mantra of “being good stewards” of the taxpayer’s money as, even though there was growth in several key revenue streams, the county budget sought to maintain current levels of service and forgo funding some new requests for county funding from outside agencies, like The Improvement Association, who operates a HeadStart early education program in the county and were looking for over $70,000 in additional county funding to help with teacher compensation and other costs.
According to county budget documents, growth is expected in most local revenue sources, namely taxes. Real estate tax revenue is expected to come in just short of $18 million during the upcoming fiscal year, up nearly 10 percent over the current fiscal year’s projects. The boost is largely attributed to the recent economic development wins for Dinwiddie County like German grocer ALDI’s regional headquarters and distribution center along U.S. Route 1 in the county’s northeastern region.
Regarding real estate taxes, the county opted to advertise and adopt an effective tax rate of 79 cents per $100 of assessed value earlier this year, which has been the county’s rate since 2013, according to county records.
As part of that tax rate adoption, the county’s personal property tax rate dropped from $4.90 per $100 of assessed value to $4.75, the first time the rate has been reduced since 1987. Since 1980, the rate has been as high as $5.20, Massengill detailed in a slide during his presentation.
Even with the reduction in the county tax rate, personal property tax revenue is expected to rise by nearly $200,000, or 2.5 percent, during the upcoming year to $7.7 million. Overall, local tax revenues and fees are projected to rise by just over six percent to over $33.2 million.
Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill walks supervisors through the FY2020 budget at last week’s public hearing. (Michael Campbell)
When looking at the big picture of local revenues, the county expects to see a bump of nearly $2 million overall in local revenue to $42 million when compared to the current year’s adopted budget, while state dollars is slated to rise modestly by $176,000 to $6.5 million, and federal revenue continues to be a small fraction of the county’s funding sources, declining to a mere $2,623 from $15,905 during the current fiscal year.
In terms of spending, a number of key areas were identified by Massengill and his staff, ranging from compensation for county employees to facilities maintenance, and public safety.
As part of the FY2020 budget, county staff will be receiving a three-percent salary increase, also called a “cost of living adjustment” by county representatives. In addition, funding has been earmarked for a classification and compensation study for the county’s various departments, which is commonly done to get a better look at employee roles, staff compensation, and other key areas.
In addition, as the county’s $20+ million facilities project at the government complex nears completion with the Pamplin Administration Building expecting to reopen as the school division and registrar’s new offices in June, funding has been allocated for 3.5 additional full time employees in janitorial services to help with cleaning in the county’s buildings, including the new government center, the recently renovated information technology building and the public safety building, which opening nearly one year ago.
The county also plans to invest in an indoor scissor lift that can help with reaching some parts of the new Dinwiddie County Government Center that can be difficult to reach in the two-story building, along with an infield groomer for the Dinwiddie Sports Complex, something Massengill said has been a need of the complex for some time.
In the area of public safety, the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office will be looking to re-establish a precinct in the northern end of the county during the upcoming fiscal year as funding has been set aside to allow for staffing at that office, along with $13,000 for in-car camera equipment for the department’s vehicles.
On the fire and emergency services side of public safety, funding has been provided for a comprehensive review of the county’s services, along with the addition of a training, recruitment, and retention officer. The county’s fire-medics program would also see growth in this year’s budget as three more full-time employees would be added in an effort to continue to improve operational efficiency and new turnout gear has been funded in the county’s budget.
According to county documents, for every dollar of taxpayer revenue, 27 cents goes to public safety and corrections, while the greatest portion, just over 37 cents, goes toward funding K-12 education. In regards to public education, local funding from the county to Dinwiddie County Public Schools will rise by $500,000 in the coming year, which is less than the $653,000 increase that had been requested by Dr. Kari Weston and the Dinwiddie School Board.
During his presentation, Massengill praised supervisors for their efforts to support the local school division as they face declining funding from the state. According to data provided by the county, since FY2013, the county’s local funding has increased by over $3 million from $12 million to FY2020’s $15.1 million. Over the last ten years, direct aid from the state has dropped by 11 percent, even though the current year saw a bump in funding as investments in education are being made at the state level.
The second half of the county administrator’s presentation highlighted the county’s capital improvement plan, which provided a road map for some key projects during the upcoming financial year while also giving a glimpse at some projects in the future thanks to the new structure of the CIP, which takes a ten-year approach to scheduling projects and determining funding sources.
Overall, in FY2020, the county’s general fund contribution to its CIP will total $2.2 million, while there are a number of projects that will utilize alternative funding, or some form of borrowing or grants will be used to offset some costs.
The second-year of the county’s ongoing broadband internet expansion project will be funded at $500,000, using funding from a grant the county successfully received from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
The CIP features a number of public safety investments, such as $72,000 for paving and concrete at McKenney Volunteer Fire Department, implementation of the next-generation 911 system, with a $51,000 county match as part of a grant for $30,000. Additionally, the county is in the process of awaiting word on grant funding for the purchase of a replacement ambulance and ladder truck.
Combined, the grant would cover over $950,000 of the over $1.4 million purchase of both vehicles. If the grants applications are declined, the county would have to find funding for the replacement units in the FY2021 budget.
School bus purchases will be made for the local school division at $253,000. Earlier this year, Dinwiddie Schools was provided additional funding after a bump in state funding, with part of those proceeds being used to purchase several school buses, thus reducing the CIP request in the budget.
A number of other projects have also been identified in the county’s CIP, such as an airport-area fire station and a number of school-related capital improvements but, according to Massengill, more conversations need to be had between the county and the school system to determine what the future holds for Southside Elementary School, as any project could require some others to be shifted in terms of their funding timetables.
The costs for other projects, like enhancements at some of the county’s parks and recreation assets, have yet to be determined as the county will undertake a study this coming fiscal year to determine the needs and future of those assets.
Even though the public hearing was last week, state law prohibits local governments from acting on their budget on the same day as their public hearing, requiring a minimum of seven days to pass, resulting in yesterday’s action and adoption.
The new fiscal year starts on July 1.