Cuts, expenses discussed at budget work session

A budget work session last week began with an apology, but ended on a contentious note after a taxpayer suggested the Patrick County Board of Supervisors cut their pay.
Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, began the meeting with an apology to the Patrick County Department of Social Services for his March 11 comments that the department “is a suck on this community, a drain. I apologize for that statement. … I’m truly sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
Near the latter part of the work session, John Pendleton, a local taxpayer, expressed disappointment that the work session resulted in no progress.
The supervisors are grappling with an estimated $3.1 million shortfall in the proposed nearly $56 million budget.
The board is considering a proposed real estate tax hike of not more than .11 cents, refinancing certain debt and reapplying for a Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) to make up a portion of the shortfall in the spending plan that includes increases in several areas.
For instance, the reassessment is estimated at $458,200; the Electoral Board requested an additional $11,450; court services, $10,900; law enforcement, $76,386; deputy, $26,789; Quick Response Vehicle (ambulance), $75,428; jail, $386,452; building inspection new hire, $14,112 and $14,000 for the jail’s HVAC maintenance contract, according to budget documents.
Additionally, increased funding requests from most agencies totaled $36,548 with $172,716 projected for salaries and benefits due to new hires from the Medicaid expansion (Patrick County Department of Social Services); $158,648 – transfers to PSA funds, as suggested by the auditors for more accurate bookkeeping; $17,000 – Community Center HVAC unit and $411,545 to the school division, documents showed.
Pendleton, a Patrick native who owns business property in Stuart, suggested eliminating part-time positions as a cost saving measure and questioned other expenses, including law enforcement and the jail.
Pendleton suggested county supervisors cut their salaries as one way to trim the shortfall.
“Mr. Pendleton, would you be interested in donating half of your rental income back to the county … We’ll put it in the general fund to help get down this debt load … You’ve asked me to give up part of my money,” Weiss said.
According to the budget proposal, the supervisors will be paid $6,690 each, for a total of $34,950 in fiscal 2020.
Associated expenses and a proposed increase of 3.58 percent pushed the total requested appropriation to $77,580 in the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1.
Related expenses include FICA, unemployment insurance, contributions to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), health insurance, Workman’s Comp, insurance for public officials, advertising, travel (mileage, lodging/meals. conventions/education), related memberships and other operating supplies, according to budget documents.
Geri Hazelwood, assistant county administrator, emailed a copy of the law pertaining to Workman’s Comp. It states that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not automatically provide coverage for elected officials, members of the Board of Supervisors or board or authority members that are appointed by the governing body and act in an administrative function.
A majority of the board members in January, 2001 approved a resolution to provide coverage to several boards, including the supervisors.
Donna Shough, finance director, said the majority of the other expenses included under the Board of Supervisors category are not actually for board members.
Although the county can pay for supervisors’ health insurance, Shough said the budget committee has proposed changing that in the upcoming fiscal year, and as of July 1, supervisors can be included on the county’s insurance only if they pay the full premium.
Many of the other expenses are related to the board clerk’s salary, Shough said of health insurance and the like.
Hazelwood also serves as the board clerk.
Shough said portions of the benefits provided to Hazelwood are divided between two budget cost centers – the board of supervisors and county administration.
According to budget documents, Hazelwood will be paid $10,000 for serving as board clerk.
Sara Leigh Collins said she will be paid $3,150 for serving as clerk of the Patrick County School Board.
The supervisors will hold a second work session on Monday, March 25, at 6 p.m. in the third-floor meeting room of the Patrick County Veterans Memorial Building in Stuart. Several department heads are expected to attend.

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