Perhaps a closer look at the county budget is needed

In recent weeks I’ve taken the time to review the county website, and gather information from Culpeper County government officials and members of the Board of Supervisors regarding the proposed FY 17 county budget. It’s been quite an education for me — not only in terms of learning fiscal monetary practice and sound financial decision making by local government, but also an extraordinary window into viewing a rather egregarious allotment, a misallocation, and misapplication of funds. The words, “maladministration,” “misappropriation” and “random, arbitrary decisionmaking” come to mind.

It appears the county has a surplus galore, in the amount of $50 million dollars and growing, but continues on a relentless journey to feed the monster at taxpayers expense. As it is the Board of Supervisors responsibility to oversee and manage a sound fiscal policy, to make responsible financial decisions in the interest of County taxpayers, the misallocations I’ve noticed, confuse me.

According to information from the Director of Finance, the $50 million dollar General Fund surplus will grow to $52.5 million in FY 17. This is after capital improvements, requisite salary increases and job creation. This year, the county has asked for $159 million, up from $154 million from last year. The advice given to the Board of Supervisors by auditors was to maintain a surplus of 10 to 15 percent of operating budget. This figure will now increase to 16 percent or more.

At what point do we reign in these monies? Why not maintain a 12 percent level, in which the county would still maintain its AAA bond rating and would leave roughly $7.5 million in the General Fund, which could be given back to the taxpayers in the form of a tax break on personal property. Or give the county employees including the Constitutional Officers (e.g. The Sheriff’s department, Treasurer’s Office and Commissioner of Revenue) a one-time bonus. God knows they deserve it.

But in my research, I found some seemingly random salary levels of certain county employees. For example, one department director has received raises that translate to an approximate 60 percent salary increase during a three-year period. I’ve been informed by county personnel that this extraordinary increase is based upon an impending retirement, as well as a recent study done on the salaries in surrounding counties. However, I question why other government employees, such as the office of the Sheriff, with significantly more responsibilities are not affected. This is a prime example of how the Constitutional Officers of this county are treated in comparison to county employees. Try calling a county employee some evening when someone is breaking into your house.

I’m sure there are other instances that can be mentioned, if someone analyzed the figures to a greater extent than I have.

As a business owner, I wish I could run my business the way the county is run.

I feel that the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors and the Culpeper County Administrator need to look a little deeper at the long lasting effects of what they are doing to this county (we are not Northern Virginia). The average salary of the Board of Supervisors is about $12,000 per annum. Perhaps raising salaries to $75,000 a year and making the positions full time would not only alleviate the need to pay outside consultants to do work for the county, but also encourage the supervisors to stand guard and seriously manage county funds. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is very true.

As a pastor so often heard on the radio airwaves states, “It’s not a sermon, just a thought.” I’m not an accountant, nor a budgetary guru. But even with my limited knowledge, I know something is not right.

Larry Green