Perrie Johnson said, “I’m willing to pay to move Fluvanna forward.”  Kerry Murphy-Hammond agreed, saying, “I don’t like paying more tax; however, I think it’s absolutely necessary to move Fluvanna forward.”

Joe Shaver called the proposed tax rate an “opportunity to…do the right thing that we should have done two years ago.”  Robert Earl summed it up by saying, “We’ve cut long enough, we’ve said no long enough, and it’s time to say yes for Fluvanna.”

In an e-mail to the Fluvanna Review, Elizabeth Franklin expressed a different opinion.  “Our proposed FY15 tax rate discourages economic development… How in the world are we going to attract those businesses with tax rates that are so much higher than Louisa’s?… And we have nothing to overcome that giant tax-rate disadvantage.  Property costs about the same in the two counties.  We have no edge in services.”

After the public hearing ended, Supervisor Tony O’Brien began the discussion.  “The county isn’t necessarily making some huge hump forward in terms of its tax rate,” he said, “it’s reconciling what it hadn’t done in the past, decisions that for whatever reason weren’t made.  It’s easy to say we can find something to cut but when you break down and actually look at what you would cut and what the impact would be – it wasn’t so easy in this budget cycle.  There weren’t a lot of recommendations.”  He went on to ask, “Could we have saved a few cents this year?  Possibly, but they would have come back next year.”

“My concern certainly is the fact that we’re going from [FY14’s adopted budget of] $65 [million] to [FY15’s proposed budget of] $80 [million],” responded Supervisor Don Weaver.  “That’s a 22 percent increase.  We talk about economic development – we’re now one of the highest counties in this area on tax rate and I don’t think that’s good for economic development.”

“I find it much harder to find cuts in the budget than it is to raise the budget,” said Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch.  “I think it’s much easier to add things, it seems, than it is to really get down to making the really hard decisions of keeping the tax rate down… Time will tell what effect this [proposed tax increase] has.  I hope it’s a good effect, I really do; I hope it turns out well.  There’s two sides to everything.  Other counties are coming to where we were two years ago…and see the extremity of the cuts.”

“The most telling thing I saw this entire time,” said Supervisor Mike Sheridan, “was the chart [County Administrator Steve] Nichols made for us last week.”  This chart plotted debt service, general fund, and county-contributed school monies from 2000 to the present, and can be found under “budget history” on the county’s website.  “The lines did not lie,” he stated.

“For us to take the approach and say, ‘Hey, what can we do to save a penny today – that might cost us $5 tomorrow?’  It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said O’Brien.  “If we think there are some great ways to save some additional monies here, we can still look at it, but I don’t think that anybody has spoken out loudly saying here’s an absolute way we can do that.”

“There’s a segment of folks that are sitting at home saying ‘There’s nothing more I can scream about, there’s nothing more I can plead about.  I’m talking to a [voting] majority that’s not going to hear me,’” Ullenbruch responded.

“Respectfully, I disagree,” O’Brien replied.  “I think the idea that there is some large silent majority out there is hogwash.  If they were there, then they should be here today… I’ve had more people reach out to me, saying ‘Do the right thing, raise it,’ then I’ve had people saying ‘do it the other way.’  You can write letters – there have been [only] two letters in the Fluvanna Review with respect to this.”

During the debate, Ullenbruch took a moment to praise Chairperson Mozell Booker.  “I want to thank Mrs. Booker in public for how you’re handling the chairmanship.  Whether I agree with you all the time or disagree with you – I’m finding I agree with you more than I ever thought I did.  We’ve spent more time talking in the last three months than we talked in two years.”

Booker likewise spoke highly of Nichols.  “The first year that Mr. Nichols was our county administrator we saw our budget in a much different way and we were elated about how well it was put together and presented.  And I think this year he has gone beyond that… [He has] put things [so] that not only we can understand, but the community [can] as well, because of our website.”  Nichols responded by sharing credit with the many county employees who have helped with the process, including Finance Director Barbara Horlacher, Budget Analyst Eric Dahl, IT Director Jonathan McMahon, and Administrative Assistant Mary Weaver.

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