Budget talks underway

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    By Debbie Hall

    The Patrick County Board of Supervisors heard, but took no action, on the school division’s proposed $812,787 budget increase for the coming fiscal year.

    Schools Superintendent William Sroufe presented the school budget, and said $329,041 of the increase is due to an increase in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), combined with a 2-percent across the board raise to employees.

    A little more than $90,000 is needed for the pay hike that is not slated to take effect until January, and the additional more than $235,000 is due to the VRS increase, according to discussion during the meeting.

    An increase in debt service caused by refinancing a note totaled $356,016 of the proposed increase and health insurance costs are expected to increase by $250,000, Sroufe said. An estimated 400 of the 475 employees in the school division participate in the insurance coverage, Sroufe said.

    County Administrator Tom Rose estimated an additional $147,000 to $150,000 will be needed to cover the cost of the insurance and VRS increase for county employees and others, such as law enforcement officers.

    If the health insurance increase is not funded, the county could be fined an estimated $3,000 per employee, officials said.

    The division also hopes to hire an additional special education teacher, at a cost of $50,890, Sroufe said.

    Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce said school officials were asking for the increase due to mandated expenses. “We can’t refuse” the request, he said.

    Sroufe also presented information about a Capital Improvement Project Plan, and asked for the supervisor’s approval to begin the process to seek a $1.2 million Literary Loan to pay for the associated maintenance expenses.

    Boyce said he could not support that proposal. Board chairman Crystal Harris and Karl Weiss, supervisor of the Blue Ridge District, both said soul searching would be needed on their part before they would consider supporting the loan, based on past experience with a $25.5 million loan in 2008 before Sroufe was named superintendent.

    When considering repairs, Harris suggested school officials include repairs that may benefit the entire county. For instance, she asked if the showers in all the schools worked. Since all schools are designated shelters in the event of an emergency, Harris said it is important that all showers were in working order.

    Roger Hayden, supervisor for the Dan River District, said funds from past loans should have been tapped to pay for repairs on the list.

    “All these projects should have been done,” Hayden said. “The wants were done (during past projects) and to heck with the needs.”

    Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher said he appreciated the detailed plan Sroufe presented, and that many of the repairs listed in the plan had been put off in the past.

    “There’s been somewhat of a history of putting things off,” Fulcher said of the repairs that had been needed, but not done.

    In other matters, supervisors also:

    • Heard a presentation on the county budget by Rose. Those discussions are slated to continue at subsequent board meetings. Supervisors also are requesting that some department heads attend those meetings to answer questions and/or provide additional information.
    • Heard from David Kiser, assistant resident engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Kiser said the speed limit will be raised to 55 on the U.S. 58 bypass, between Walmart and W&W Produce. He also said safety lighting and other work will be done on the east and west exits at Wood Brothers Drive in Stuart. New flashing lights also will be installed at the intersection of U.S. 58 and Virginia 680 (Spring Road) in Patrick Springs.
    • Debbe Noonkester thanked the board for ensuring a mile long dirt road will be paved. Boyce said VDOT was responsible for the upgrade, not the supervisors.
    • Approved beginning the process to request a special election for Circuit Court Clerk to be held during the General Election in November.

    Following closed session, the board:

    • Voted to hire a full-time economic developer. That position is set to begin on July 1.
    • Supervisors also approved eliminating the Economic Director Assistant post, effective the June 30 end of the current fiscal year.
    • Appointed Diane Lawson to the Tourism Advisory Council as the Dan River District representative.