Monday, February 15, 2016

Lending a hand

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors listened attentively to budget requests before their Tuesday, February 2 meeting. Since taking office in 2012, this board has used the budget process understand how tax dollars are spent in its quest for fiscally responsible government. The school division will present its budget request at a session starting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16.

A modest increase in countywide real estate valuations means that the current 53 cent per $100 real estate tax rate will bring in more money than last year.
Funding core services, law enforcement, fire-rescue, schools, and services for those in need, is the focus of the county budget.

Although Goochland County is considered to be a “wealthy” jurisdiction, the numbers presented by the agencies that provide assistance to socially and economically challenged residents are sobering. (The packet is available in the supervisors’’ section of the county website under agendas for February 2, 9 a.m.)

These agencies include the Department of Social Services; Office of Children’s Services; Free Clinic and Family Services; Community Services Board; and the Chickahominy Health District. They deal with a wide array of issues including mental health; poverty; disability; hunger; and child neglect and abuse.

Kimberley Jefferson, Director of Social Services, said that the rising incidence of drug use, especially meth and heroine, is a problem that transcends socioeconomic boundaries. “You could be sitting next to a person using drugs and not know.”

The county is in dire need of local foster parents to shelter children who have been removed from their homes so they can stay in Goochland schools in order to have some continuity in their troubled lives. Foster placements outside the county are more expensive to administer, and more disruptive for children. Babies born to county residents with drugs in their systems also need fostering until a safe place, preferably with relatives, can be found.

Jefferson said that generational poverty and underemployment add to the demand for DSS services. She wants to work with the Chamber of Commerce and other economic development entities to determine what kind of skill sets employers coming to Goochland need. Jefferson said that she has access to funds to train people for specific jobs, but needs to know what skills are needed. “We have a pool of people and money for training, they need employees, let’s put the two together.”

DSS receives funds from many sources, which further complicates their delivery. Jefferson explained that it takes years for employees to learn to effectively navigate the layers of regulations that apply to all forms of public assistance. Dealing with an increasingly state computer system, created by IT people, with no input from those who implement policies is another challenge for DSS.

The Goochland-Powhatan Community Services Board supports people in Goochland and Powhatan Counties experiencing mental health, intellectual disability, and substance abuse problems. (See its website for details.)

As Director Susan Bergquist explained, the CSB tries provides preventative mental health care available to Goochland residents, regardless of their ability to pay, and provide fast referrals “on the front end” of a situation.
Bergquist said that the West Creek Emergency Center now processes psychiatric crisis events. Patients receive simultaneous medical and psychiatric evaluations in a non-threatening environment, which simplifies referral to a long term care facility. Finding beds in psychiatric facilities for those that need them in a timely manner is still a concern.

The Goochland Free Clinic and Family Service provides basic human services to people in need with everything from free dental care to emergency temporary housing. Its clients are those with household incomes well below the poverty level. Visit its website for details.

Although GFCFS is a private organization, the county supports their activities with the in-kind donation of space in the administration building and funding support for items including transportation, home repairs, and, beginning in the current year, a local match for a domestic violence program.

The Goochland Health Department inspects restaurants; issues permits for wells and septic tanks; provides clinical services including family planning, maternity, and communicable disease investigations. Its mission is to prevent, promote, and protect, said Dr. Franks of the Chickahominy Health District, which includes Goochland.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson asked about bizarrely punitive inspection regulations for farmers markets. Franks said that the state pulled the policy and is redefining the way it views farmers markets. He contended that they are seeking a balance between allowing business to function and protecting the public from things like e coli and norovirus.

When asked about the possible negative health consequences of land application of biosolids, Franks pretty much spouted the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) party line saying that “science tells us it’s pretty much a nuisance factor” because of the odor. He said that the Health Department does not get involved in monitoring wells near the site of biosolids applications. In rare instances, they might suggest mitigation of greater buffers for someone with serious health issues living close to an application site.

These workshops present information about departmental budget requests to the Board of Supervisors. The County Administrator will present FY 2017 budget recommendations on February 22. The Board will vote on a budget and set the tax rates in April.

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