Bond referendum could be on horizon

The proposed revision of the fiscal year 2014 budget, which the Chesterfield’s budget and management department continues to adjust as revenue conditions change, last week, was presented to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. The proposal included 2014 though 2018 and included changes in only the CIP (Capital Improvement Program).

There are two pots of money that the county operates from. One is the general fund, which pays for salaries, maintenance, utilities, social services, economic develop and a number other county services.

The second is called the CIP, which pays for big projects such as new schools, renovations, new and expanded libraries and parks, new fire stations and additional road improvement for which the state doesn’t pay.

The presentation included a long-run revenue and expenditure forecast; a referendum background and some staff recommendations.

The revised plan still requires additional revenue and schools will seek to fund new schools and major renovations through a bond referendum in the fall. The amount of the referendum or nod from the public by vote has yet to be completely determined.

An adjustment in the general fund is needed due to budgetary issues already on the group. Basic adjustment such as increases in existing contracts (plus 2.5 percent per year), health care (plus 8 percent), salaries (plus1 percent) and debt service are needed according to the budget and management department.

No staffing increases, new facilities, service level enhancements, or broader responses to state, Federal mandates are included.

According to one county official it will be impossible to pay for improvement typically in the CIP at the rate we’re going.

Over five years there is a gap in mandated projects of about $138.5 million. These mandates include the Virginia Retirement System contribution for employees and Chesapeake Bay EPA requirements.

There are also CIP projects still on the books that remain unfunded. These projects are things you can touch such as the Rt. 288/Courthouse Road fire station; funding for restoration of library hours; a material budget; public safety career development; additional patrol officers; restoration of police operating dollars; reduction in pupil-teacher ratio, among others.

But the $138.5 million gap could be partially closed by a return of home values, which would generate about $30 million in property taxes by 2015; cost structure changes; reducing back office support functions by $23.4 million by 2015 and the county could save a additional $15 million with tighter spending controls in the out years.

If the public votes to approve a meals tax (a maximum of 4 percent) in a fall 2013 bond referendum the net meals tax proceeds are projected to be $49 million.

According to budget and management’s projections of cuts and new taxes the county would remain in a shortfall position within the next five years of about $21 million.

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