Friday, December 10, 2010

Last board meeting for 2010

Girding for more hard times

The last meeting of 2010 of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors included usual year-end housekeeping matters. Streamlined procedures have shortened monthly sessions to a few hours in the afternoon and early evening.

It’s good to see new faces attending these meetings, especially Susan Lascollette from the Goochland Tea Party. There is just no substitute for watching these proceedings in person. However, recordings posted on the county website a few days after the meetings are a second best way to follow local government and make up your own mind.

The December board meeting agenda usually includes the annual inclusion and deletion of parcels of land in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. This year, however, major changes are planned. Instead of simply amending the TCSD ordinance, according to county administrator Rebecca T. Dickson, the Virginia Attorney General has opined that the entire ordinance should be repealed and a new, improved ordinance enacted in its place.

In addition to adding and deleting parcels, the new TCSD ordinance will address matters including mandatory granting of easements and connection policy, which were not part of the original ordinance.

This is a welcome and long overdue action. Confusion and inequity about easements and connection policy have plagued the TCSD since its inception in 2002. Failure to properly address wastewater treatment funding mechanisms in the original ordinance led to the dramatic rate increases that began this year and are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. There will be several public hearings on the matter. Stay tuned and pay attention.

The new year will bring renewed fiscal headaches as the board grapples with the task of funding county services with a revenue base that is expected to continue its decline as a result of a continued decline in real estate assessments.

Initial salvos in that battle were quietly fired by board chair William Quarles, Jr. District 2, who requested that Dickson present, as she did for fiscal 2011, several options for the county budget based on different tax rates. This could provide justification for a real estate tax rate hike.

James Eads, District 5, however, was adamantly opposed to an increase and suggested that Dickson base next year’s budget only on revenue generated by the current 53 cent per $100 of valuation rate.

Eads also suggested that the county explore outsourcing all vehicle maintenance and janitorial services; combine school and county general maintenance personnel; combine school and county purchasing activities and prepare an inventory of small parcels of land owned by the county with an eye toward selling some.

Eads also said that the school system should be strongly urged to present a budget dealing with expected revenues, which it did not do for the current year.

He repeated his entreaty for the school board to hold its meetings in the administration board room where adequate seating, good microphones and an efficient recording system are in place. This would save the school system a little money while enabling it to hold more transparent meetings.

Eads’ comments on outsourcing make a great deal of sense. One way to resolve the perennial debacle of the school bus maintenance garage is to pay someone else to do the job. Given the constraints of the situation, this would require a location in the county, probably Courthouse Village, so that buses and other vehicles could be serviced nearby.

One great advantage outsourcing has is to lessen the number of permanent county employees, which in turn lowers benefit costs including pension liabilities.

The board also approved its 2011 legislative agenda, which notifies the General Assembly Goochland’s stance on a variety of issues. It did not endorse a measure to permit the Virginia Retirement Authority to explore alternative defined contribution funding options for local employees. Few private companies provide defined benefit pension options because of prohibitive costs. Governments at all levels should follow suit or risk being swamped by ever increasing pension liabilities.

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