At its March 3 meeting, the Goochland Board of Supervisors took a few minutes to celebrate the recent announcement that the county received a AAA bond rating from New York based Standard and Poor's. The magnitude of this accomplishment, a bit more than three years after the former county treasurer was marched off to prison after being convicted of embezzling public funds, is astonishing.
County Administrator Rebecca Dickson thanked Kevin Rotty, of Public Financial Management,the county's financial advisor, for his help and encouragement during the complicated application process for the credit rating. Rotty reported that Goochland's securing a AAA credit rating is indeed a rare accomplishment for a county with a population under 60,000. (Goochland's population is approximately 21,000).
Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, presented commemorative glass plaques to Rotty; John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Affairs; comptroller Barbara Horlacher; Jon Worley who produced the wonderful video included in the presentation (available for viewing on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us); and District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson.
The driving force behind the pursuit of the bond rating, said Peterson was Dickson.
The benefit for the citizens going forward is that Goochland has been vetted by a respected impartial agency and found to be fiscally responsible and well-managed. In addition to reducing the cost of the county's borrowing going forward, by giving it direct access to capital markets, it announces that Goochland County has its fiscal ducks in a row.
Peterson contended that the rating gives citizens " a transparent metric to monitor the county's financial health." He also thanked Rotty for his contributions to turning the county around. "In a previous life, Kevin must have been a baseball batting coach because he helped Goochland County hit a couple of home runs." Rotty was also instrumental in the remedial restructuring of the TCSD debt.
Rotty explained that the AAA bond rating puts Goochland "in select company" as one of eleven jurisdictions in Virginia--and the smallest, at aproximately 21,400, population-wise--to obtain this designation. He said that winning the rating on the first attempt is the result of years of dedicated planning and financial discipline. Rotty said that Goochland was judged to be "very strong" in six of the seven rating categories, with only the TCSD debt issues casting a shadow on the county's fiscal picture.
The video, said Rotty, told the raters who Goochland County is. The Standard and Poor's folk, however, were curious as to how Goochland managed to accomplish so many things in such a short time and retain the lowest tax rate--53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation--in the region. Peterson, reported Rotty, educated Standard and Poor's about " The Goochland way".
Dickson attributed the success of the rating quest to participation by virtually the entire county staff, board of supervisors and others. "It really does take a village," and thanked all everyone involved for doing their job well.
A new feature has been added to the software used for Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission packets. It allows comments to be made online regarding a particular item. Supervisors and commissioners will be able to view all the comments. Lascolette said this is yet another way to gather citizen input and improve government transparency.
Senior Planner Jo Ann Hunter presented the draft of the 2035 comprehensive land use plan to the board. It is available on the county website. A series of meetings will be held in April to gather citizen feedback. Comments may also be made by telephone, or email.
Lascolette said she was "blown away" by the revised plan, which is intended to be easier to read and understand. Please take a look at this and communicate you thoughts about it to county officials. This is the time to comment on land use, not when there is a bulldozer on that vacant land on the corner!!!
Representatives of Kimley-Horn, a transportation consulting firm retained by VDOT--the state agency that seems to be trying to change its motto from Oops!--presented their initial recommendations to improve traffic flow in the Broad Street/Ashland Road corridor. This includes additional traffic signals; suggestions for new roads; and some round abouts on Ashland Road. As with all road projects, availability of money to pay for the improvements is a huge factor.
The Board next meets for a public hearing on the FY 2016 budget on April 13.
After all of the hard work on strategic plans, bond ratings and so forth, the Supervisors contend that they are still focused on supporting core services. These are: law enforcement, fire-rescue and education. The proposed 2016 budget includes funding for one, rather than the two deputies that seemed to be agreed upon last year.
In the presentation of the 2016 budget, made by Wack on February 23 (please listen to the live stream, it was the last item on the agenda) he contended that the budget supports "public safety," lumping fire-rescue and law enforcement together and never providing the reasoning behind funding only one new deputy. If there is a good reason, citizens need to know what it is.
Additional fire-rescue employees, funded to a great extent by the cost recovery program--charging health insurance for hospital transport-- put in place a while back, are different from deputies. Fire-rescue employees are trained and certified before they are hired. Deputies must go through a training academy and local acclimatization before being "turned loose" to patrol solo, a process which takes nearly a year to complete.
That means that a deputy hired on July 1, 2015, likely will not be on the road before Spring, 2016. By that time, new construction on Broad Street in Henrico will be dumping increased traffic volume on Goochland Roads.
Failure to fund a second deputy seems like a penny wise and pound foolish approach to delivering core services. It will be interesting to see if anyone bothers to comment on,or even notice, this during town hall meetings or the public hearing on the budget.
Is hiding something in plain sight the same as transparency?