As the Greene County Board of Supervisors enters its annual rounds of budget workshops and discussions they have a new tool designed to help them plan for capital needs.
The Greene County Planning Commission approved a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) in December and the board heard more about it at its Jan. 28 meeting.
“The first thing I’d like to say is this is not the end; this is the very beginning of a process,” said Jim Frydl, planning director and zoning administrator. “The advantage to a (CIP) is it helps you use tax dollars wisely because you’re thinking long term about needs and budgeting money for those needs as opposed to reacting.”
This is the first plan the Planning Commission has brought forth to the board in at least three years, Frydl said.
“Years back, it was not a very useful document,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Martin, Stanardsville. “And I know it remains a work in progress, but if we get better year to year, I’m not so interested in perfection. I like to see progress. It’s really good.”
The CIP includes an inventory of projects that have been identified and where they might fit in the next five to six years. It included recommendations from the county’s facilities’ needs consultant Cardno, as well.
Frydl also noted there’s a difference between a CIP and a capital improvement budget.
“(The projects) have gone to the Planning Commission, the Planning Commissions have verified that these plans further the goals of the comprehensive plan,” Frydl said. “However, in order for this to become a capital improvement budget, or part of any long-term fiscal plan … there’s a lot of decisions to be made by the board and then to work with the finance department in order to implement these into a way to pay for them.
“Everything we’re going to talk about tonight we will give you background on it, but it literally is just the starting point,” Frydl continued. “And it’s almost a homework assignment for the board as you go into the budget process side of these things.”
Cardno recommended the building of new space—about 4,000 square feet—and shuffling some government duties into other buildings.
“It shows that space being created here around this building,” Frydl said. “But, the reality is space created is space created. The space could be created on other land that the county owns, if that’s more cost effective and efficient. So, what you have is kind of a cost basis for achieving the goals that came out in the survey and the conversations with the board—not a specific plan.”
Martin asked if the 4,000 square feet of additional space took into account reconfiguration of current space as the board noticed during a tour of the facilities in September that “many of those rooms that we saw were full of either full filing cabinets or empty filing cabinets.”
County Administrator Mark Taylor said “it aspires to such outcomes.”
Frydl said the first project that needs to be considered; however, is work on the Court Square project.
“We have a historic, beautiful centerpiece to our town and our county, but it does need some modernization and some improvements. It’s very important to the judges and so that’s a number-one priority,” he said.
The courthouse was originally built in 1838 when Greene broke off from Orange County and Stanardsville became the county seat.
“Because I think it’s critical for the board’s and the community’s comprehension at this point … there are some present and rather acute needs for some remedial work at the court complex. There is a water intrusion issue; there are issues that need to be attended to simply for the preservation of the structure and continuity of operation,” Taylor said.
Greene County Public Schools also sent information about its capital needs and in year five of the plan there is money needed for a new school.
“There’s a projection for a possible school based on enrollment; that’s giving you an idea based on what it would cost to build an elementary school so you can start thinking about that because that’s something that’s a much larger project that’s beyond what they take care of in a normal budget year through their budget allocation,” Frydl said.
Under parks and recreation, even in the latest survey, one of the top things that came up is a need for a community center—which is not a plan per se. It could be a steel building with basketball courts and that could be around $500,000 or it could be a multi-use building with a swimming pool and that could cost $10 million, Frydl said.
“I know there’s a high demand for the community, especially with children. And I’m glad to see a placeholder, but until mana falls from heaven or the federal government starts a grant program again, that one with (its place mark of $15 million) that’s a tough one to bite off,” Martin said. “I personally will talk about this come budget time, but the courthouse complex obviously is a priority.”
The Planning Commission asked the board to consider including a column that shows what the tax rate would need to be for each project to be funded. That doesn’t take into account the saving of funding or bonding for the projects, but Frydl said it’s a good indicator of the impact on taxes.
The commission also specifically recommended to the board that “completing the expansion of a safe and reliable water supply system should be an immediate priority and something that has a large impact on everything that we do—from the residential quality of life to attracting new business and economic development.”