|Feeding every baby
On Tuesday, February 20, Goochland County Administrator Vic Carpenter presented his recommended budget for FY2025, which begins on July 1, to the board of supervisors. A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 2, with final approval and setting of tax and fee rates on April 16. Go to https://www.goochlandva.us/1165/Budget-Transparency for details. Sheriff Steven Ned Creasey and Fire-Rescue Chief D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr. made presentations about their budget requests.
|The 2024 pie
The school budget, which accounts for approximately 33
percent of county expenditures, will be presented to the supervisors at their March
Carpenter said that because 71 percent of county revenues come
from real estate taxes, government is funded by a “one-legged” stool whose
precarious balance can be negatively affected by circumstances beyond its
The supervisors authorized advertisement of proposed tax
rates, 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for real estate. The real estate
tax rate has been 53 cents since 2007. This year retention of that rate, due to
an increase in assessments, represents an effective tax increase of 4.9
percent. The personal property tax rate is proposed at $2.99 per $100 of valuation—owners
of high mileage vehicles need to submit appropriate documentation to the
Commissioner of the Revenue by March 1—and 32 cents per $100 of valuation for
land in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Advertisement of a fee schedule
that includes an increase for public water and sewer customers and adoption
fees at the Animal Shelter was approved..
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on
April 2. The board will adopt the budget and set tax rates and fee schedules on
District 2 Supervisor Neil Spoonhower pointed out that this is
a draft budget, the first step in the final budget process and may be revised
before final approval. The board wants citizen feedback about the budget. Town
Hall meetings will be held in March to explain and discuss the budget. (District
1, March 11 at Byrd Elementary School; Districts 2 and 3 March 18 at the County
Administration Building; District 4 March 25 at Salem Baptist Church; and
District 5 March 7 at Dover Baptist Church. Please try to attend one or all of
these meetings which will be livestreamed at https://va-goochlandcounty.civicplus.com/1154.
Submit questions in advance to email@example.com)
Carpenter explained that the budget process starts in
November and will be revised until April adoption. It is the product of
meetings with board members, the community, and departments to see what worked
last year and what did not. The starting point is the expected available
revenue from real estate and other taxes, state and federal aid, and fees. Since
2018, the general fund had grown from $60 to almost $90 million. Using a
conservative approach and the county’s strategic plan, the budget is crafted to
seek efficiencies and cost savings where possible while funding priorities of
public safety and education. Recruiting and retaining the best employees—highly
skilled and motivated people are necessary to provide excellent delivery of
government services—is a challenge in our competitive environment.
Utilities are a self-sustaining enterprise fund, a business unit that stands on its own two feet, said Carpenter. Modest increases in water and sewer are proposed. The ad valorem tax levied on property in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District is used by statute to service debt incurred by the county in 2002 to build water and sewer trunk lines.
Inflation, which Carpenter said is still at three percent,
is a concern as is the possibility of a recession. Goochland is growing, and graying,
which increases demand for emergency medical services especially in the east
end driven by the arrival of senior citizen enclaves and Sheltering Arms
Goochland has excellent schools. Preserving quality education
in the county is also a high priority budget goal.
This year’s proposed general fund is 13 percent more than
last year’s driven by significant increases in public safety funding, salaries,
and benefits. Real estate taxes, based on a 9.9 percent increase in assessed valuations,
account for 71 percent of revenues. Public safety spending accounts for over $6
million of the $7.3 million budget increase.
New positions in many departments, including information
technology security, account for the increase. A new position in Animal Protection
for instance, will improve communication between citizens and officers in the
field. Three new 911 dispatchers, the first responders on the scene of any
emergency, are needed to ensure that all emergency calls are answered.
Creasey explained that his department is the primary law
enforcement agency for Goochland, responsible for 911 dispatch, court security,
civil process service, prisoner transport, patrol, investigations, community
outreach, enforcement of court orders, and providing school resource officers.
Last year’s River Road utility line break highlighted the
need for additional dispatchers to deal with the influx of calls about the road
closure. The 911 call center is the secondary phone line for utility issues. Had
there been other incidents at the time, calls might have gone unanswered, which
Creasey indicated is unacceptable.
His presentation included high quality videos made by
Goochland High School students. To view, go to the county website
gooclandva.us, click on “watch county meetings”, select February 20 under
archive meetings and scroll to the 33-minute mark.
It can take 12 to 18 months from the date a deputy is hired
until they are “turned loose” for solo patrol, so personnel requests for the
current budget will take effect in future years, the Sheriff explained.
The Sheriff’s Office oversees several budgets, including
those for the school resource officers, court related, and correction detention.
Creasey cautioned the board that he will make a much larger
request for personnel next year to staff the new courthouse, provide necessary training
for deputies, and add patrol deputies.
Compensation is Creasey’s major concern. He agreed to a five
percent boost in starting salary, backing off his initial request for a 10
percent increase. “If our friends to the east blow us out of the water, I plan
on coming back,” he said. Competition for law enforcement officers among
surrounding jurisdictions is fierce.
The Sheriff’s budget also includes equipment upgrades and incarceration
expenses. Goochland does not have a jail of its own and takes prisoners to jails
in other jurisdictions whose costs have increased dramatically, Creasey said he
is investigating other options.
As the county grows, so does the number of crimes that
consume the time and attention of deputies.
Ferguson began his presentation by acknowledging the role
that the 911 dispatchers play in delivery of fire-rescue services and the close
collaboration between his department and the Sheriff’s office.
The Chief explained that the influx of older residents at
senior communities and the Sheltering Arms Hospital has dramatically increased
demand for fire-rescue services, especially EMS in the past years and that the
demand is expected to grow as Avery Point nears build out.
Goochland ambulances, said Ferguson, transport patients to
hospitals throughout Central Virginia, including Charlottesville. A phenomenon
referred to as “wall time” when ambulances wait, sometimes for hours, at an
emergency department to offload patients, increases the length of a call, keeping
the unit out of the county unable to handle other calls.
Goochland fire-rescue is just that. Employees and volunteers
are trained in both EMS and fire suppression. Which hat they put on for any
emergency depends on the situation. Structure fires, especially those in areas not
served by public water, require water shuttle operations to transport water
from ponds to the fire ground. This requires many firefighters, making them unavailable
to respond to calls.
Ferguson said that almost 70 percent of calls to fire-rescue
are for EMS. Apparatus, including ambulances and engines are expensive to buy
and maintain. Lead time for ordering new equipment is years.
Then there are new stations. A part time Sandy Hook station
8 came about thanks to delays caused by roundabout construction. Temporary
measures worked so well there that they have morphed into an EMS station. The
West Creek fire-rescue station is in the design phase. Stations at Manakin and
Centerville, owned by the Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association, have been
renovated to accommodate 24/7 career personnel, and Courthouse Company 5
renovations are under construction. Crozier cannot be expanded and must be
relocated to a site as yet unidentified, perhaps somewhere on Cardwell Road.
Ferguson’s budget request of $12,411,317 is about a 19.3
percent increase over last year, which he attributed to salaries, wages, and
benefits. Fire-Rescue too competes for people. He said that the remainder of
his budget is pretty much flat from last year.
Since the first career fire-rescue personnel were hired in
2009, said Ferguson, responders in the field have increased exponentially, but
there are not enough administrators to support them. Of the positions he requested
this budget cycle, six would be assigned to Sandy Hook. His goal is to have
five people on duty at each station 24/7. Because people need time off to
train, take vacation, and sick days, more people are needed to ensure adequate
Providing excellent services to citizens in a fiscally responsible
manner is a delicate task.