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August 18, 2010

Supervisors launch budget process at meeting with school officials

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

20100817-Boards
The two boards met at CitySpace to begin the FY2012 budget process

As Albemarle County begins another budget cycle, members of the county’s two elected bodies sat down Tuesday to discuss ways to improve communications. Supervisors and school board members aired their grievances about how the current year’s budget was developed.

In April, the School Board approved a $142.9 million budget for FY2011, $6.1 million  less than the previous budget. Some of the savings came from eliminating more than 40 staff positions, including the equivalent of 22 full-time teaching positions.

The Board of Supervisors kept the property tax rate at 74.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. Because property values declined, the average tax bill was around $90 lower than the previous year.

The session was facilitated by Bill Bosher, executive director of the Commonwealth Education Policy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. Bosher’s group has conducted management reviews of the school system and Albemarle County government.

“One assumption is that a school system works in the context of budget projections and needs to offer a budget that is balanced within those projections,” Bosher said. “For us today, I believe you want to talk more about what are the mechanisms we can use to confront that process.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100817-BOS-SB


During the three hour session, Supervisors and School Board members discussed how to better improve how they communicate information about each other’s needs.

Supervisor Ken Boyd, who served on the school board from 1999 to 2003, said he thought the school board members didn’t understand the constraints placed on local government by the recession.

“You didn’t really do a good job of explaining to us why you needed [an] additional two or three million dollars,” Boyd said. “You never told us what your expenditures were and how much you anticipated them to be.”

20100817-Bosher
Bill Bosher of the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute

For the next hour, school board members and supervisors argued over the details of last year’s budget and pledged to do a better job of relaying information as next year’s budget is developed. It is anticipated that the School Board will need to make further cuts in the FY2012 budget due to continued reductions from state government.

One outcome of Tuesday’s retreat is likely to be increased meetings between the two bodies, especially during when the budget process gets underway. Supervisor Dennis Rooker said he thought that would go a long way towards increased trust.

“If someone on our board has a perception that they’re wasting money or they should find savings someplace, let’s put it on the table and talk about it,” Rooker said. “It’s very easy not to like somebody you never sit down and talk with.”

The two boards will next meet in October to further discuss the budget. Bosher advised that the boards not to negotiate about money at that meeting, but simply provide each other with information.

“If you have a chance to fairly put your stuff in front of the body that funds you, and they say no, all you really asked for was a fair hearing,” Bosher said. “There’s always going to be a next season.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Introduction from Bill Bosher of the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute.
  • 23:30 - Comments from Lane Ramsey
  • 31:00 - Bosher asks elected officials why they are proud of Albemarle
  • 43:30 - Bosher asks what elected officials can do to create mechanisms to work through difficult times
  • 54:30 - Conversation on previous year's budget process begins
  • 1:34:00 - Bosher asks elected officials to suggest ways of ensuring communications stay open
  • 1:41:00 - Bosher re-opens session after break
  • 1:49:00 - Bosher gives feedback on what he's heard listening to the conversations

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