Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A road map

Goochland is in a time of transition, morphing from a quiet rural county to something yet to be determined.

When the current Board of Supervisors took office at the start of 2012, it addressed the most serious challenges facing the county: the looming Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt and continued delivery of necessary government services in lean economic times without raising tax rates.

Instead of wringing their hands, the supervisors, in concert with County Administrator Rebecca Dickson, got to work. They started by reviewing the county budget, line by line, to get acquainted with all departments and make a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. Setting priorities, they imposed thoughtful discipline on expenditures, squeezing every nickel twice. Some of the choices they made—such as reducing the hours at the convenience centers and charging for EMS transport—were not popular with everyone. This Board understands that holding public office is a civic duty, not a popularity contest.

Many fires have been extinguished or brought under control in the past thirty months. The TCSD debt has been tamed to a doable--but still daunting—task; bitter battles between the supervisors and school board are history; county financial management is sound; and a slight uptick in the economy has given rise to cautious optimism. Revised fiscal operations are rebuilding public trust.

There is still much to be done.

To prioritize tasks, the Board set about creation of a strategic plan about a year ago. Instead of a laundry list of tasks, the strategic plan (draft text available on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us) sets out an operational matrix for all county functions with subjective goals that can be applied to all situations.

The Plan will ensure that the high standards that have, and are being put into place, become the normal expectation of citizens as well as county employees.

The Plan includes vision for the future of Goochland. It adheres to the belief of these supervisors that the county government exists to serve the citizens and should strive to deliver value for taxes paid and a “return on investment” to those who own property and business here.

Each category of the Plan uses “citizen satisfaction” as an indicator of the success of the policy. It will be interesting to see how that is measured, but there are plans to provide a regular report card to citizens to gauge county operations.
Transparency in government is another goal. Indeed, putting the county and schools’ check registers and the Certified Annual Financial Report on the website lets everyone see how their tax dollars are spent.

The Board also wants to encourage increased citizen engagement.If attendance at public meetings is any indication, the more confidence citizens have in those running the county, the less attention is paid to what is going on.

Meetings of the supervisors, school board, planning commission, and economic development authority are live streamed, but only a handful of people tune in. New appointees to board and commissions bring commons sense the appropriate experience necessary to understand matters before them.

Citizens need to pay attention to the operation of their local government. Right now, we have a board with integrity that does what it believes is best for Goochland. That could change.

On June 25 and 26, starting at 7 p.m. the Board will hold meetings to gather citizen response to the draft strategic plan. The meetings, both essentially identical, will be held in the Board Meeting Room of the administration building located at 1800 Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village. The supervisors want your opinion. Let them know what you think, either in person or by email or phone.

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