Board agrees to elections panel request for ink over pencil, votes June 6 on $22.2M flat-line budget
At their final public hearing on Rappahannock County’s fiscal year 2017 budget Monday night at the courthouse, the supervisors heard relatively little but did informally resolve a couple of nagging issues raised by the small group of citizens who showed up.
The $22.2 million budget, which goes into effect July 1 and which the board is scheduled to to adopt at its 2 p.m. session June 6, is balanced for the first time in years — meaning projected expenses do not exceed projected revenue. Also for the first time in several years, following a line-by-line review by county staff and supervisors starting in late 2015 and the resulting substantial number of spending reductions, it requires no increase in the real estate tax rate.
That rate remains at 70 cents per $100 of assessed value (a $2,800 tab for a property worth $400,000). The only tax the supervisors plan to raise is the annual motor vehicle license tax, which goes up to $25 from $20.
County Administrator Debbie Keyser reported the various expense adjustments and reductions — and at least one reduction in expenses, that being the coming year’s cost for the county’s share of operating the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail (costs calculated on a rolling average of the county’s share of inmates, which is at 5 percent, down from the original estimate of 7 percent or higher). Originally budgeted at about $618,000, the projected cost is now $417,000.
Combined with the sale of the county’s Aileen property, the county, Keyser said, was also able to create a contingency fund, most likely earmarked for increased fire- and rescue-related costs.
After brief presentations by local electoral board members Hurley Smith and Denise Chandler, and a brief discussion among themselves, the board also agreed to direct Keyser to make changes in the actual draft budget to reflect the transition of the county’s director of elections, aka registrar of voters, from a part-time to a full-time position, a change ordered by the general assembly to take effect July 1.
As both Smith and Chandler stressed (and have repeated stressed at supervisors sessions over the last two months) the increase in the registrar’s salary “is not a raise” but what the electoral board believes is fair compensation for the additional 480 hours added to the position’s annual workload.
Moreover, Smith reiterated, no increase to the county budget is required, since the electoral board agreed to cuts its own budget by whatever is necessary to fund the county’s share of the new salary — which is now just over $50,000, partially funded by the state, plus a $9,000 county supplement.
David Konick of Woodville rose to suggest that the county consider paying its planning commission members more than $25 a month — a rate, he pointed out, “that has not been changed in over 30 years.”
“I don’t do this for the money,” said Konick, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals (whose members get $35 a month for serving), “and I don’t ask for anything for myself. But . . . if you want to continue to attract intelligent, responsible people to serve on boards that are critical to the county’s future, please think about it.”
Page Glennie of Amissville rose to read from a list of deficiencies in the county’s budgeting and expense-tracking processes. He also repeated his claim that the county risks a “potential nepotism issue if you hire [county attorney Peter Luke’s] son-in-law as zoning administrator.”
Though several county officials have disavowed any knowledge of such such plans since the first time Glennie made the comment publicly in April, Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish, running the meeting in the absence of chair Roger Welch of Wakefield district, objected to Glennie’s comment.
“This person,” Parrish said, referring to attorney Taylor Odom, who’s married to Luke’s daughter, “has never expressed any interest in being zoning administrator.” Though he did apply for the deputy county administrator post awarded a year and half ago to Keyser, Parrish said, it was never anyone’s plan to hire Odom as a zoning administrator — for which, he added, there is no funding in the 2017 budget.
“You mentioned him to me, by name,” said Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier.
“Maybe I did mention his name,” Parrish said, “in that, if we were to have a young attorney, who would have the dual role of county attorney and zoning administrator who would stay with the county their whole lives, like Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Luke did, that would be great. And I probably did say there’s a young fella in the county who’s an attorney.
“But he never expressed any interest in the job,” Parrish said.