By Debbie Hall
In a majority vote, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors adopted the proposed $54,372,772 spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year at its final meeting in June.
“This budget has been a long drawn out budget,” Jane Fulk, chairman, said of the process undertaken to balance the budget with an initial nearly $900,000 shortfall.
The process, she said, “has been line by line, penny by penny, and I appreciate our new board members who were on the budget committee, and all the rest of our board members who worked on it, plus our department heads who cut their budgets (and) who worked with us to make this possible.”
The budget includes expenses in 10 categories: nearly $1.8 million in General Government Administration; nearly $1.16 million in Judicial Administration; nearly $7.5 million in Public Safety; more than $1.6 million for Public Works; more than $3 million for Health and Welfare; $257,967 for Parks and Recreation; nearly $1.5 million for Community Development; more than $7 million for Education and more than $1 million for Non-departmental expenses, according to the summary.
Before the board adopted the budget, Geri Hazelwood, interim county administrator, said that the county’s Finance Director, Donna Shough, was requesting an addition to the budget of $1,199 to pay the annual fee to RDA Systems, a disaster recovery investment company, for the annual cost of the Bronze plan to ensure county data is backed up and safe in the event of a catastrophe.
“We all know that we’re not happy with the software that she (Shough) has, but it will cost $200,000 for an upgrade (and) we just don’t have it to upgrade the software,” Crystal Harris, vice-chairman, said.
In a majority vote, the board approved the amendment, with Clyde DeLoach, of the Blue Ridge District, casting the lone dissenting vote.
Noting that the budget was balanced before the additional expense was proposed, the board decided that savings from switching phone and cell phone plans will be used to pay the additional expense. The savings were not reflected in the budget because the county had not moved forward with the switch, Hazelwood said.
“We haven’t contracted with anybody yet, but we do plan to move forward with that based on the recommendations that we presented during the budget time. We do have to get contracts with those folks,” Hazelwood said, adding county staff had been waiting on approval of the budget before moving ahead with the changes.
“We need to get this (change) done as quick as we can so it’ll start saving,” Clayton Kendrick, of the Mayo River District, said.
*Sandra Stone, Treasurer, said “going forward this fiscal year, we do not have a” Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) “in place. Keep in mind going forward, we don’t have a contingency fund to fall back on and we don’t have a RAN.”
Stone said that after talking with consultants hired by the county, “we thought it would be best to wait till a little further out and hope that we don’t need this RAN. I just want you to be aware that I don’t really have a safety net going forth. What you see on that paper is all we got. I just want you to be aware of that.”
She also noted that after researching the issue of whether the school division can have carry over funds from one fiscal year to another, she earned that a School Capital Projects fund could be created. Monies in the fund would revert to the school, potentially with an 80/20 split, with the county getting 20 percent and school division getting 80 percent, to spend on capital improvement projects.
“This also gives them an incentive to not spend down” at the end of each fiscal year, Stone said, adding that she had broached the subject with Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert, who plans to address the issue with the Patrick County School Board.
If both boards are interested, the fund could be created in the next fiscal year, she said, adding there is no way it could be done by the July 1 start of the 2021 fiscal year.
In other matters, the board:
*Heard a report from Steve Terry, chairman of the Patrick County broadband Committee. Terry said that many are concerned that the first phase of an upgrade project did not begin as planned due to complications with getting certain documents signed.
He noted about 1,800 people will be served as a result of the upgrade, and it is “meaningful to accelerate and not delay that schedule.”
The schedule change also is impacting RiverStreet, the company which is partnering on the project, Terry said. “All this is very troubling,” he said, and asked that the process to get the last documents “signed be expedited, if possible, and in the event something happens and that doesn’t occur, there is a new law that goes into effect on July 1 about shared utility easements. I would encourage whoever needs to” to check the law and determine if the first phase can begin regardless.
Terry also added that the committee is looking into Wi-Fi hot spots, “which are becoming more critical for school children,” those who work at home and others.
He also noted that of the $50,000 needed for an engineering study required as part of another potential project, “we’re not quite there.” Stuart Rotary is accepting donations for the project. There are options on the agency’s website to donate online, Terry said, adding that “all the donations we get will be put to good use.”
“I appreciate all your work,” Fulk said to Terry. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for your pushing, so please keep pushing.”
*Hazelwood said only two of the three quotes for the Bull Mountain 911 HVAC proposal were received, and the proposal will be discussed after the third bid is in place.
She also noted in a compliance agreement update about the tipping floor at the Transfer Station, “we have met the criteria that DEQ (the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) had set out for us, and the work has been completed, and the Transfer Station is open and the recycling efforts are back in place.”
*Met in closed session to discuss personnel – employment, legal, real estate matters.
The board’s next meeting is set for 6 p.m. on July 13.