Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Budget season begins in Prince George County
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Jan 17, 2013, 12:59

As the new year begins, so does the process of drafting a new budget.

The Prince George County Board of Supervisors met with County Administrator Percy Ashcraft on Tuesday night for a preliminary work session scheduled to set the tone for the next county budget.

During the meeting, the board received a general update on the county’s financial situation and heard several requests and proposals from county departments.

As the year begins, the county has the 15 percent required minimum in the fund balance, plus $1,137,623. A number of urgent projects may claim some of that excess.

“There are six projects that are pending for possible expenditures in the rest of the budget years,” Ashcraft said.

One of those expenditures will be parceling out an additional $92,500 to pay for expenditures under the Comprehensive Services Act, which addresses the needs of at risk youth and families.

This year, the expenditures for the program have exceeded the alloted funding. The county will be required to close the gap.

Ashcraft said on Tuesday that the program grown in expense by approximately 10 percent per year over the last three years, which is expected to happen again next year.

Also required will be $144,303 for the new Parks and Recreation Community Center, which opened late last year.

Ashcraft sought direction from the board on the four remaining possible expenditures, which include $74,000 for bay doors and floors in the Disputant Volunteer Fire Department, $53,338 for a new administration phone system and $74,000 worth of improvements to the Temple playground.

Fixing the doors and floors in the Disputanta Volunteer Fire Department’s building emerged as a top priority.

“The bay doors are so antiquated, that their not large enough to get any of the newer fire equipment into the building,” said finance director Patricia Davidson.

The county’s need for additional paid medics was discussed. To have a second ambulance available at all times, the county would have to hire nine additional medics, at approximately $51,000 per hire.

Newly appointed board chairman Bill Robertson said that he agrees with the need for more personnel, to reduce the county’s dependency on mutual aid from surrounding counties, but does not think it will be possible to hire nine additional people.

“Do we need additional people, yeah, I think so,” said supervisor Jerry Skalsky. “Nine? No, I don’t think so.”

Supervisor Bill Gandel, who was selected as board vice-chair last week, said that the “overwhelming majority” of county residents who had contacted him wanted the county to do “whatever’s necessary” to reduce EMS response times.

Although no decisions were made, the board indicated it would like to hire additional personnel during peak hours.

A police department proposal to move from nine hour shifts to 12 hour shifts generated interest amongst board members, especially since the proposal would save an estimated $28,000 a year.

Last year, the county’s school division faced such a tight budget that it had to request over $1 million in additional funds over what was initially budgeted by the county. Each year, funding for the schools is determined based on the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, a formula developed to calculate school funds.

On Tuesday, the board instructed Ashcraft to follow the MOU in drafting an initial budget.

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