The minutes of the April 26th, 2016 meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, held at the William Monroe High School Performing Arts Center, reflect comments concerning the most recently audited 2015 fiscal year, and opinions about the current 2017 fiscal year budget.

According to the Greene County Administrator, John Barkley, “the 2015 Comprehensive Financial Audit Report demonstrates continued evidence of disciplined spending and fiscal responsibility”, and the 2017 fiscal year budget is “lean and efficient”. County Administrator Barkley outlined that the budget continues to fund core services such as education and safety, investment in County personnel, support of local and regional partners, continued focus on utilizing technology to provide better information and services to residents and businesses, and enforcement of regulations and state mandates.

Even the members of the Board of Supervisors agreed with County Administrator Barkley, with four of five Supervisors voting in favor of the FY’17 budget including raising the Real Estate tax rate to 77.5 cents per 100 dollars of assessed value.  All four Supervisors who voted in favor of the rate increase cited the need for additional funds to invest into county services and initiatives.

Budgeting and planning for the future is a fundamental function of the County Administration and of the Board of Supervisors.  Additionally, and more importantly, so should ensuring that every tax dollar collected is used efficiently by examining how County Departments under the leadership of the County Administrator function and perform…results must matter.  

Take the Greene County Solid Waste Facility, for example.  This facility is an operation that has the potential to be very self-sufficient and sustaining through fees paid by the customers who use the service.  However, for at least the past 4-audited years and through information provided by the County, the facility has collected $3.4 million in total fee revenue, incurred $4.6 million in operating costs, and rack up an operating deficit of $1.17 million dollars.  The facility lost an average of $293 thousand dollars per year during the 2012 – 2015 fiscal years.  We are waiting on the audited results of fiscal year 2016 to see how this is trending.
These financial results scream that improvements need to be made in this particular County department.  Either costs need to be managed better, a new fee structure developed, or both.  Inquiries need to be made and an operational study performed to ensure that quality controls are in place for capturing and charging for every pound of waste received.  Are the scales calibrated and working consistently?  After all, the cost for transferring the metric tons of waste out can be more than 63% of the operational costs alone.  If this is not a self-sustaining venture, a new business model must be considered for this service.  As of now, this potentially-self-sustaining operation is subsidized at the expense of other County core services. 

To place this into further perspective, the average financial loss per year for the solid waste facility, over the last 4-audited years, is more than 62% of the 2017 Real Estate tax increase that the Board of Supervisors explained was necessary to generate more revenue for Greene County.

Perhaps next budget season, County Administrator Barkley and the Board of Supervisors can address this example and explain where improvements were made that led to being “lean and efficient”.  The Greene County Solid Waste Facility can be the first piece of low hanging fruit.

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA