Residents question county spending

Residents attending the Oct. 15 supervisor meeting raised several questions related to the county’s current financial woes, bills and expenses.

Charles Vivier said the County Administrator’s pay is more than $97,000 per year, but duties such as tourism and economic development were no longer part of his job description.

The County Attorney’s pay also increased, according to Vivier, who wondered if additional duties sparked the increase.

He also inquired about the date of the next audit, when preparations will get underway for the upcoming budget and said that while he understood the county’s Contingency Fund was tapped to keep taxes from increasing, “I don’t know if that’s good business,” Vivier said of forestalling a tax increase.

Steve Terry said he is angry about the influx of information regarding personnel issues.

“There’s something going on” but the practice of “see no evil” is rampant. “Why bother advertising out county when people read the paper and say, ‘why do I want to go there,’” he asked.

Terry also chastised the board, and said they as well as county personnel should be role models.

“I can see some signs here that something’s not right,” Terry said, adding those who shed light on the problems are likely to be receive a “public flogging for whoever comes and says anything like this and I know I’ll get mine. We don’t need that,” he added.

Kyle Laux, of the Davenport Company, LLC also addressed the board to explain the Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) the county intends to pursue and answer related questions.

Skyline National Bank was the low bidder on the loan, with a 2.19 percent interest rate that is fixed through maturity. Funds from the RAN must be repaid by June 30, 2019, and there is no prepayment penalty, he said.

Lock Boyce, chairman and of the Mayo River District, and Sandra Stone, Treasurer, had a heated exchange during a volley of questions related to the county’s expenses.

(The full video of the meeting is available at www.theenterprise.net/patrick-county-board-of-supervisors-meeting-video/)

“It seems odd to me that we have this sudden need to borrow funds, unless there’s been a drop in revenue or an increase in expenditures,” Boyce said, adding he is “unaware of where the big holes in the bucket are,” but recalled that the county’s $2.5 million contingency fund – a type of rainy day/savings account — remained consistent through 2017, he said.

“We started with $2.5 million and in one year, it’s all gone,” Boyce said.

Stone explained that funds were taken from the contingency fund in fiscal 17-18 to make the budget balance.  She said the funds were used for payroll and bills.

With little remaining in the contingency fund, Stone said the RAN may be needed to shore up the county’s coffers during lean revenue months like October.

“Never did I ever think we’d have to borrow funds,” said Roger Hayden, former Dan River District supervisor. “Government cannot go broke or file bankruptcy because they can tax, but they can bankrupt the people of the county.”

John Pendleton asked what happened if the loan is not repaid.

Laux said if the county fails to repay the note, Virginia can intercept revenues that it sends to the county for other purposes to ensure the lender is paid.

“Whose job it is to balance the budget,” Pendleton asked. “Don’t we have the tools month-to-month to figure this out before it gets to this point? Are we going to keep paying folks outside with taxpayer money to do the jobs that we should be doing here?”

“I would have thought we did,” Boyce said. There “should be somebody to tell us because it doesn’t show up in our packets.”

Stone said the informational packets the supervisors receive each month include detailed information, and her door is open if additional information is needed.

She also reminded the supervisors that she sounded the alarm earlier this year after dipping into the contingency fund to help meet recurring monthly expenses.

In March, Stone alerted the Patrick County Board of Supervisors that the General Fund carryover from FY ’17 to FY 18 was $2,190,746, about $164,415 shy of the $2,355,161 needed to balance this fiscal budget.

In April, Stone again said she was concerned about meeting the monthly payroll. She said at the time she also wanted officials to know that any pay increases would stretch the county’s already lean budget.

On April 26, Stone sent a letter to supervisors, warning them that the contingency fund was low.

She also reminded the board that the county signed off on a $25 million loan for schools in 2008. Then, in 2009, the county took on a more than $6 million debt to build a new jail. In 2010, the locality took on a more than $3.5 million debt for a water and sewer project.

“That’s a lot of debt,” Stone said. “That’s where it started. We took on a lot of debt and that tax rate has not increased. Then, we did a refinance in May 2015,” which helped at the time with a savings of $1.7 million.

But when those payments on the refinanced funds “started coming due, we had a payment to make in 2017-18, and that’s when it all started,” she said. “As of Sept. 30, the county has over $32 million in debt,” not including interest, Stone said. “When you’re expenditures exceed your revenue, then you’ve got problems.”

Stone estimated the county would be $600,000 short of the funds needed to meet payroll and pay bills in October.

Subscribe

more recommended stories