Public hearings for the proposed Goochland County budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1, drew remarks from only one person, an outside agency director thankning the supervisors for their financial support. The manufactured drama of school children begging for reinstatement of programs eliminated due to revenue shortfalls and outraged citizens demanding that their taxes be raised for school funding was absent.
The April 8 hearing is the first time in recent memory that not a single member of the school board or administration even attended the budget hearings.
Following months of workshops, town hall meetings and citizen feedback, the proposed budget, which will be funded by keeping the real estate tax at 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, provides an acceptable level of funding for schools, law enforcement, and other governmental services. The EMS cost recovery program implemented at the start of the year, which charges for ambulance transport, is expected to generate enough money to cover a significant portion of the cost of hiring fire-rescue providers to handle rising call volume.
The access to budget information from the county, and especially the school system, was unprecedented. The proposed budget is available on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us for all to peruse.
The reworking of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt, which resulted in stability for the ad valorem tax levied on property there, resulted in a smaller draw on the county's general fund than in previous years.
At the start of the evening portion of the meeting, Peter Farrell, who represents the eastern portion of the county in the General Assembly, presented Goochland voters with a commendation for having the hight voting percentage in the Commonwealth for two consecutive presidential elections. Farrell said that our Electoral Board comprised of Chairman Herb Griffith, Bess Stewart and Robin Lind, working closely with Frances Ragland, the best registrar in Virginia, contributed to this achievement. The most important achievement of Goochland voters, however, may have been replacement of most of the Board of Supervisors and entire school board in the 2011 election.
County Administrator Rebecca Dickson commended county staff and all department directors, who attended the hearings, for their hard work and willingness to pitch in and craft the budget.
Board chair Kendall Peterson, District 5, observed that the proposed budget increased funding for the core services of education, law enforcement and fire-rescue without increasing the tax rate in "yet another year of declining real estate tax revenues."
Ned Creasey, District 3, said that this year's budget process provides yet another yardstick that other counties can use to measure how things should be done.
District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick, a relative newcomer to Goochland, couldn't see what the fuss was all about. "This is how is should be. We did our job and worked hard to explain what was going on to the citizens."
The supervisors will vote on the proposed budget and set the tax rates for 2013 on April 16 at 7p.m.