The Harrowgate fire station, now under construction is possibly the last project that will be built that was part of the 2004 bond referendum. All but two of the projects voted in favor of in 2004 have been completed. This year’s improvement budget could eliminate those projects.
The Chesterfield County Charter requires adoption of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) by May 1. The CIP is a budget for what is considered bricks and mortar projects only; projects such as fire stations, libraries or any project that is part of infrastructure. The funds cannot be used for operation costs.
Last week the county’s Budget and Management department presented the first draft of the CIP to the Board of Supervisors BOS. The proposed CIP is for projects from fiscal years 2015 through 2019.
After the meals tax was devoured by voters, the budget gurus at the county must find a way to make up for the lost revenue that was slated for paying the debt service (interest) on the bonds that passed in November’s election.
Now Chesterfield citizens are looking at paying for the $304 million school bond and the $49 million 17-year-old public safety radio system, without the benefit of revenue from the 2 percent meals tax.
Chesterfield residents, if the BOS approves, could pay for the shortfall through a possible increase of $10 on car registrations and a real estate tax beyond the current $.95.
According to the Budget and Management office, the county may have to delay large road projects while still completing smaller projects such as curve straightening and intersection upgrades. The $10 addition to vehicle registration will aid in acquiring matching funds from the state on some projects.
This year’s CIP is lacking and the budget staff is getting creative in how the county allocates capital improvement funds.
According to Alan Carmody, Director of Budget and Management, who presented the departments proposal to the BOS last week, “We will emphasize core services,” Carmody said. These core services encompass 78 percent of total CIP funding and include education, public safety and transportation.
In addition, Carmody, explained that the CIP would support key objectives such as revitalization, quality of life and financial stewardship. Chesterfield County has maintained AAA bond rating, which is the best you can have – like having a top credit rating.
One way Carmody said the county could pay debt service on the new referendum items to defer the projects that have yet to be completed, (a fire station and a library) to fund the new debt.
“Have we ever told voters that approved bond referendum and then not do it?” said Matoaca Supervisor Steve Elswick. No board members nor Mr. Carmody could remember such a scenario.
The county budget office recommended that the county maximize the use of existing facilities such as the Central Library, Extension Services, Parks and Recreations and Transportation.
The new CIP would also focus on maintaining existing facilities while limiting new facilities.