Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trust but verify

Heads up, Goochland! It’s homework time. Proposed budgets for the county and school division have been presented, along with the six year capital improvement plan (CIP). These documents are online for your perusal at the county website,

At a February 24 meeting, the proposed county budget for fiscal year 2015, which starts on July 1, was presented to the Board of Supervisors. A live stream of the short meeting is on the county website that has an overture of utterly adorable photos of orphans at the county animal shelter seeking “forever homes.”

The school division completed its strategic plan last year; it can be accessed on the schools website in all its glory with the school budget under the school board tab.

These documents are the product of much hard work and long hours of informed, thoughtful discussions by all involved. The budget is based on continuation of the 53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation property tax rate. It funds several new positions including a full-time assessor; comptroller; part-time assistant registrar; two deputies; and a part-time fire-rescue training officer. Longer open hours at the county’s convenience centers are funded as well. The budget also looks ahead to fiscal 2016 for better planning.

The CIP lists large projects—expenditures in excess of $50,000 that do not recur annually—creating a mechanism for orderly paying for public facilities and equipment. It guesstimates the cost of items like an east end elementary school, fire-rescue stations, and a circuit court building. The CIP contains a great deal of interesting county data in addition to the “inside baseball” numbers about everything from parks to computers.

As neighboring jurisdictions contemplate raising their rates or imposing new taxes, the real mystery is why none of the regional media is reporting on Goochland’s fiscal activities. They’re here in force with satellite trucks when something bad happens, but good news must be too boring to attract their attention.

However, citizens, voters, and especially taxpayers, of Goochland County must pay close attention. The budget and CIP information is on the county website and in the library in hard copy. Departmental presentations are included in board packets for meetings in January and February that provide rationale for the funding requests.

Upcoming town hall meetings in each district between March 17 and 27 will provide an opportunity for all citizens to ask questions and make suggestions. County Administrator Rebecca Dickson pointed out that the proposed budget is not written in stone and will evolve before its adoption, expected in the latter half of April.

Citizens have the right to comment on county fiscal plans, and the responsibility to ask informed questions. Our elected and appointed officials seek public input about the way they plan to use tax dollars and want to hear from you. An engaged citizenry is essential for responsive government. It’s good to trust that elected officials are doing the right thing, but it’s prudent to verify that they’re on the right track.

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