Meeting In An Emergency

Meeting In An Emergency

SOCIAL DISTANCING is practiced at Monday’s meeting of the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors are spaced more than six feet from each other while being addressed by Steve Bolster, the county’s director of fiscal services. (Ed Smith photo)

Supervisors Begin Look At Declining Revenues

The first Rockbridge area governmental meeting to be held under state-directed social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 outbreak was held Monday by the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors.

The meeting was livestreamed and only 10 people besides the supervisors and county staff were allowed in the meeting room at a time. Also, everyone, including the supervisors, distanced themselves by at least 6 feet from each other.

The supervisors adopted a resolution ratifying a declaration of a local emergency that was made earlier following the governor’s declaration of a state emergency on March 12. County Attorney Vickie Huffman provided the supervisors with a draft of a document that addresses possible modifications to how public hearings may be held as the emergency continues. A main order of business Monday was to receive an update on

A main order of business Monday was to receive an update on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. Steve Bolster, the county’s director of fiscal services, advised the supervisors to prepare for declining revenues in the months ahead due to the public health crisis that’s causing a sharp decline in local economic activity.

For planning purposes, Bolster suggested reducing projected tax revenues by 10 percent in sales use, meals and lodging. Delayed openings of recreational facilities and an anticipated decline in construction could lead to a further decline in revenues. By way of this exercise, he arrived at a figure of $667,842, which would push the projected gap between revenues and expenditures to $2,307,434.

As a further exercise, Bolster offered possible suggestions for closing the gap. Among the possibilities are to eliminate a proposed 2 percent cost-of-living increase for county employees, undertake a 2 percent, across-the-board decrease in discretionary spending, reduce contributions to nonprofits by 10 percent and decrease the planned local contribution to the schools by 2 percent. Because of measures that have been taken to reduce the inmate population at the Rockbridge Regional Jail, it’s anticipated that planned expenditures at the jail could be reduced by $262,000.

If the anticipated decline in revenues was offset by a transfer from the fund balance, the budget gap could be reduced to $532,672, which would be equal to about 1.9 cents on the real estate tax rate.

Bolster emphasized that the numbers exercises he was engaging in were not recommendations. “The draft budget still shows a [rather substantial] gap,” he pointed out.

The fiscal services director then turned his attention to planned capital improvements that could be deferred in order to save money in next year’s budget. Among these items are remote collection centers, municipal management software, a sheriff’s vehicle and an ATV and hauler. These CIP expenditures were to be made through a combination of fund balance and general fund transfers.

The supervisors made no changes to the draft budget on Monday. Just before adjourning, chairman Dan Lyons offered comments on the ongoing crisis. “I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our first responders and medical personnel,” he said. He also praised County Administrator Spencer Suter for all of the extra time he has been putting in. “Now is not the time to panic,” Lyons continued. “We work together and look out for our neighbors, like we always do in Rockbridge County; this may just take a little longer than usual.”

Suter added that he wanted to thank county staff, the county’s regional partners, law enforcement and dispatchers for all they’ve done during this difficult time.

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