More of the same for 2011
The Goochland Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of 2011 on Tuesday January 4 and set the tone for the year. More 3-2 votes and thinly disguised contempt between factions lie ahead.
Following the invocation, election, or appointment of board officers— the rules of procedures seem to contradict themselves on that point — was in order. Ned Creasey, District 3 nominated Rudy Butler District 4 for board chair. He seconded his own nomination. Then, Andrew Pryor, District 1 nominated William Quarles, Jr. District 2 which was seconded by Jim Eads, District 5. The Butler nominated failed 3-2 while the Quarles vote prevailed by the same margin. The vote for vice chair followed the same lines with Eads voted into the position marking the second straight year of the Quarles/Eads board leadership.
Predictably, during the citizen comment period several speakers blasted Eads, Pryor and Quarles for their failure to rotate the board chair. Ironically, the rotation issue was the centerpiece of Eads’ initial campaign in 1999. Following Eads’ election, supervisors from each district took turns as chair. This evaporated following the 2007 election.
Butler expressed his disdain for the vote and contended that failure to rotate the chair created an unfair advantage for some districts.
Why is being chairman so important beyond the ego boost? It’s certainly not the extra money that the chairman receives. It’s all about power.
The board chair has control over the agenda of meetings and he alone decides points of order. This is a huge deal. Given the disastrous consequences of the massive dysfunction of previous county administration, which are still bubbling to the surface, the ability to keep certain issues out of the public eye, is very important.
The streamlined board meeting offer far fewer opportunities for information leakage, but some items must be addressed in a public forum, especially those requiring board votes.
Happily, County Attorney Norman Sales seems to have put a very tight limit on the subjects that the board can address in closed session. Unlike his predecessor, whose thresholds for closed session criteria seems to have been lower.
Following the “elections” the supervisors approved rules of procedure and code of ethics. Please go to the county website www.co.goochland.va.us and download part A of the January 4 board packet. Please read these documents carefully. Also, notice the date of the initial adoption of the Code of Ethics.
In spite of lots of lip service about transparency in government, some supervisors do not seem to understand that integrity means doing what is right even if no one else is watching.
Mrs. Nancy Morrison was recognized by the supervisors for 35 years of outstanding service upon her retirement from the Social Services Department.
Fire-rescue Chief Bill MacKay reported that both fire and EMS call volume increased in December. He congratulated Goochland citizens for having no fire fatalities during the year.
So far, only 13 people have signed up for the Emergency Medical Technician class starting this week. Classes are free to all members of Goochland fire-rescue companies. To join you must be at least 16 years of age, in good health, have a good driving record and be able to pass a background check by law enforcement. To find out more call 556-5304. This is a great way for young retirees to serve the community.
Sheriff Agnew reported that December was a quiet month for law enforcement in Goochland. Traffic accidents in the county were down about 33 percent from last year and of those that occurred, 65 percent were caused by men. Keep up the good driving record ladies!
County assessor Glenn Branham reported that the 2010 property assessments will be mailed on January 14 and landowners should begin to receive them early the following week. Challenges to the assessments must be filed within 30 days.
The assessed value of land in Goochland decreased by just under four percent in 2010. New construction values were down by 49 percent. The value of rural land decreased most in value, which Branham attributed to the lack of speculative buying by homebuilders and developers. Only nine commercial properties were sold in 2010 and there was a dramatic increase in foreclosures.
The land use taxation rate will rise from $220 per acre to $280. That’s right, per acre. The rest of us are taxed on the assessed value of the land.
County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson told the board that the county budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins on July 1, is being developed on the assumption of a 53 cent real estate tax rate. This will mean that the school system must cut another $693,000 from its budget above and beyond last year’s reductions.
The citizen comment portion of the evening session included a plea from a concerned parent about the school budget decline. This will be the first of many entreaties to the supervisors to find a way to channel more money to county schools.
Eads asked if the school board will be submitting a proposed budget based on expected revenues, which it did not do last year. Dr. Linda Underwood, superintendent of schools, who was at the meeting, said that she was not able to speak for the school board, but would convey Eads’ request.
That was the first volley in the annual budget battle between the supervisors and school board over money.
Following last year’s census the county will engage in a redistricting process to ensure that the five electoral districts in the county are evenly balanced. Because Virginia is one of the state subject to the Federal Voting Rights Act, all changes must be approved by the Justice Department. It will be interesting to see if this law enacted to safeguard voters’ rights will wind up delaying local elections in Goochland.
The county electoral board and Registrar are, however, being very proactive to do everything in their power to ensure fair and timely elections. Meetings will be held in each of the five districts to explain changes resulting from the census beginning in late spring. A new page will be added to the county website dealing exclusively with the redistricting process. Keep your eyes peeled for notice about these meetings and be sure to share any information with your friends and neighbors to make sure everyone knows what is going on.