Supervisors stream meeting on Facebook; adjust to new ways of operating

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors continued the process of adjusting to new ways of operating in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the changes: the regular meeting on Wednesday night (April 1) was closed to the public and streamed on Facebook Live.

Supervisors Mozell Booker (Fork Union) and Patricia Eager (Palmyra), both of whom suffer from health issues that put them at increased risk if they were to contract the virus, dialed into the meeting via Zoom. They both joined the session after Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) and Supervisors Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) voted 3-0 to approve an emergency ordinance to allow members to participate electronically during a disaster. Previously, supervisors could only participate electronically a maximum of twice in a year.

The supervisors also approved a resolution to bring the county’s employee leave policy in line with the Families First Coronavirus Preparedness Act signed by President Donald Trump last month, permitting sick leave of 80 hours or more for quarantined workers.

“We currently do not have any staff members who have tested positive or any family members who have tested positive,” said Human Resources Director Jessica Rice. As of Sunday (April 5), the Thomas Jefferson Health District reported there were seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fluvanna County.

Normal business

While issues surrounding the pandemic absorbed most of the meeting and the budget work session that followed, there was some normal business on the agenda.

Finance Director Mary Anna Twisdale asked for a transfer of $33,000 to refund fees paid to the county by local banks between 2012-2014. The request stemmed from a decision by the state’s Department of Taxation, which found that banks all over the state had overpaid fees to their localities during that period. “This isn’t something we have an option to do,” said Twisdale, adding that they had “pretty much beaten it to death” trying to figure out a way to avoid the payout. The motion passed 5-0.

Supervisors also unanimously passed a motion to move the employee health insurance from Cigna to The Local Choice/Anthem, a move that will decrease the county’s health care expenditure by 21.74 percent next year, a savings of up to $357,000.


But the potential financial fallout from the pandemic was never far from the surface. As the conversation turned to finalizing the budget for fiscal year 2021 (FY21), the unknowns loomed large.

In discussing revenue projections from the state, Mary Anna Twisdale said most of the numbers were “kind of up in the air,” as job losses and business closures might make it hard for people to pay taxes and fees.

County Administrator Eric Dahl said that Fluvanna “may be a little more insulated” than more tourism-dependent parts of the state, whose local budgets are built on revenues from meals and hotel taxes. He felt that real estate taxes would be less impacted than other local taxes, as most people pay them out of the escrow accounts attached to their mortgages.

“I’m not so much concerned about this year than next year,” said Weaver, saying he had read a story in the newspaper projecting the pandemic will have a $2-3 billion impact on the state budget over the next two to three years.

Calling in to the meeting, Fluvanna County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Winkler said “we have a lot of unknowns with our budget” going forward. He was particularly concerned with shortfalls in expected sales tax revenue.

Winkler said they were focused on limiting expenditures to only what they absolutely knew they were going to need in the coming months.

Commissioner of the Revenue Mel Sheridan said that personal and real estate revenue figures were not “guesses,” and it was too early to say what the impact would be on collections.

He said the county was likely to see some unexpected savings as a result of the governor’s stay-at-home orders, which will extend for the better part of one fiscal quarter. “I think you’re going to be presented with some year-end figures you haven’t seen before,” he said, as the county saves money on fuel and other expenditures.

Ultimately, there is no way of knowing what lies ahead. The FY21 budget is up for a vote on April 15, and “if we have to come back and make adjustments,” said Chair Mike Sheridan, “then we make adjustments.”

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