Supervisors approve next year’s spending plan

The $701.2 million fiscal 2011 general fund budget approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, when coupled with the efforts of county leagues and organizations, largely restores the parks and recreation cuts that were originally proposed.

At the start of last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Budget and Management Director Allan Carmody walked the supervisors through proposed amendments to the fiscal 2011 spending plan.

“I think it’s important to note that bringing this budget to this point represents just an enormous accomplishment,” Carmody said. There are lessons to be learned going forward, he said, and adjustments will be made.

“Because of these efforts, this budget reflects the priorities of the community, even though the expenditures have been scaled back to be on par with 1995 levels,” he said. “There are going to be service level impacts in this plan, due to the loss of approximately 150 full and part-time employees.”

Going forward, he said, the government and those it serves will have to decide whether this budget cut too far or the cuts were in the wrong places.

Over 2010 and 2011, Carmody said, the budget incorporates the reorganization of nine departments, which resulted in more that $1 million in savings. More importantly, cost reductions in “administrative support-type functions and activities” equate to in excess of $7 million, inclusive of the $1 million, he said.

An additional $739,000 in funding was recommended for the Parks and Recreation Department, Carmody said last week. That money, coupled with the efforts of leagues, nonprofits and other organizations, restores a large part of the reductions, he said.

“There would be no facility that, in essence, would be completely closed,” he said.

There has been some debate of library hours, he said; the proposed budget called for all libraries to be closed on Thursdays. The changes proposed last week allotted an additional $80,000 to the library system to keep the Central Library open six days a week.

Roughly $200,000 would be saved by reducing the decentralized drop-off locations for recycling, Carmody said. The budget does include the $25 fee for curbside recycling, but participants would be able to opt out this year, he said.

Among the other recommended changes was $60,000 for the restoration of one limited English speaking position, $60,000 in community contributions and $150,000 for the restoration of

Access Chesterfield. In total, $914,600 in restorations was proposed.

On the revenue side, $338,500 in parks and recreation program revenues – including a $5 fee for youth sports – is expected, Carmody said. The county expects to receive $85,000 from the City of Richmond for the shared use of the Bon Air Library, he said.

Officials expect to lose just over $1 million in recycling revenue, as about 45 percent of households are expected to opt out of the program, he said. Also among the revenue proposals was $500,000 in hotel tax revenue and $300,000 in district improvement funds.

The proposal “would leave the county administrator with the challenge and, with your permission, the flexibility to identify $329,000 in additional reductions,” he said, whether that’s improvements in some county business processes or other areas.

The supervisors approved several budget related items, including tax rates for 2011, which will stay at the 2010 levels. The board also approved a utility fee increase; for a typical five-eights-inch residential-size meter with an 18 CCF – or 1,800 cubic feet – combined water and wastewater bi-monthly bill, the bill will increase by about $1.29 monthly, according to information from the county.

Before the panel voted on the budget, Chairman Dan Gecker said he didn’t think it was any secret that this was the second of two difficult budget years and that the county was likely to have another.

“We are, I think, mindful of the human component of the budget,” he said, and the board has tried to keep cuts as much on the administrative side as possible. Gecker said he was very pleased with the items that were added back to the budget.

Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle thanked Carmody and the staff for listening to the board’s message of “putting the citizens first.”

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier said the county’s strategies and ideas for confronting the budget crisis had been used all over the state. No other board has had to deal with the fiscal realities the current supervisors have confronted, he said.

“We can’t print money,” he said. “We can’t borrow it from China.”

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