Prince George Board Adopts Budget, Increases Fees
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Jun 14, 2012, 12:17
PRINCE GEORGE - At the end of a four hour regular meeting that lasted until 11 p.m., the Prince George County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt the $100,832,074 budget for fiscal year 2012-13 with a change to the funds appropriated to the school division.
After numerous public work sessions and extensive negotiations between various members of the school board and board of supervisors, the supervisors voted on May 22 to place in a contingency fund the requested $1.277 million the school division estimated it needed in order to close its budget gap. The monies would be made available to the schools in April 2013.
On Tuesday, supervisor Jerry Skalsky proposed appropriating the $1.277 million to the school division immediately, for a total local contribution of $57,552,547. He indicated that he had heard from the school system that not having the $1.277 million might create difficulties for the schools throughout the year.
“I thought everybody was pretty well satisfied, that they understood where we were at with the taxpayer,” said Board Chair Henry Parker, in opposition to the proposed change.
Supervisor Alan Carmichael, who took the lead in arranging the contingency allocation of the $1.277 million, said that he had encountered some anxiety concerning whether or not the board of supervisors would definitely give the money to the school system in the last quarter of the fiscal year. He said that the board of supervisors had said they would, and intended to, make good on that promise.
“I’m standing by the word that I gave them,” Carmichael said.
Skalsky asked,”If they need it, why not give it to them now?”
Carmichael argued that the school division had indicated to him that they would try to save money throughout the year, in hopes of decreasing the amount they would need to request in the fourth quarter.
When the issue came to a vote, supervisors Skalsky, Bill Gandel and Bill Robertson voted for the immediate transfer of funds.
When Carmichael’s turn to vote came around, he said that he preferred the approach Of placing the money aside until the fourth quarter, but would not be accused of voting against education.
He said that he hoped the school board would stand before the residents of the county and explain why they were taking the $1.277, just as he had to explain why the county needed $1.5 million to purchase the Buren property. That subject had riled many members of the public who had appeared at the last board of supervisors meeting to voice their opposition to the purchase.
The board struggled with the county budget this year, facing county residents opposed to tax increases. A number of commenters appeared last night to decry the $0.25 increase in the personal property tax rate the supervisors adopted in April and to speak out against further tax increases.
“It seems like the board is turning us upside down and taking the pennies and nickels out of our pocket,” one man said.
The board voted to dismiss a motion to impose a one percent tax on domestic consumption of heating fuels after extensive research indicated the increase would only generate an additional $20,000 in revenues, as opposed to the $175,000 initially anticipated.
They did, however, vote to adopt proration of personal property taxes, a strategy that is estimated to generate an additional $274,869 in revenue.
A proposal from Animal Services to increase adoption fees from $10 to $25, and to increase the fees for pick up and impoundment of animals, was changed to keep the fee for adoptions at $10. Some members of the board were concerned that raising the adoption fee might discourage county residents from adopting.
Another subject that emerged as a hot topic was the establishment of group homes for the intellectually disabled in the county. With Southside Training Center closing in Dinwiddie, the county is expecting proliferation of homes catering to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a subject of concern for some residents.
Six members of the public, most of them residents of a subdivision where a group home has been established, appeared to speak on the issue. Most expressed concern about the home and the fact that they had no warning that it was planning to open in their neighborhood, and uncertainty about what degree of control the local government has to regulate such facilities.
County Attorney Steve Micas said that localities have very little control over group homes, with the State Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services possessing most of the authority to regulate them.
The board urged residents to call their representatives in the General Assembly and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Service to express their complaints and concerns.