The King George County Board of Supervisors is limiting its agenda to two items on Tuesday, but they’re biggies in terms of topics and total costs.
One is how much money the School Board is requesting for schools next fiscal year, and the other is how deep the King George County Service Authority will have to dig to fix ongoing facility problems.
In recent years, Board of Supervisors and School Board members have talked about the school request in the more informal setting of a work session. Such a meeting was planned Thursday, then canceled because School Board members had not finalized their proposal.
Full funding of the first version would have added 8 cents to the county’s real estate tax rate of 70 cents per $100 of assessed value. Supervisor Chairman Jeff Bueche called such an increase “simply unrealistic, as there are many needs in the county to be addressed.”
He pointed out that schools “are definitely not being neglected or overlooked” as they received 20 percent more in local funds in fiscal 2019 than five years ago.
Bueche’s wife, Ann, is the school system’s supervisor of special education.
School Board members did some trimming and removed requests for six new positions, including three reading specialists, as well as new furniture and equipment. On Monday, they will discuss a budget that includes $18.3 million in local money, said School Superintendent Rob Benson. That’s $1.1 million more than current funding and an estimated 4-cent tax increase.
Seven new special education positions, a school counselor and truancy coordinator remain in the proposed budget, along with a 2.85 percent cost-of-living salary increase and step increases for staff. The pay raises account for about half of the budget increase, Benson said.
The School Board will go over the new proposal Monday, then make a presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Residents who have served on a budget advisory committee and attended numerous work sessions with the supervisors also are invited to Tuesday’s meeting.
It’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in the board room of the Revercomb Administration Center, but first on the agenda is the King George County Service Authority.
The authority continues to deal with the fallout from its previous manager, who repeatedly ignored notices of violations at the county’s wastewater treatment plants. In the wake of his resignation, a new general manager was hired in November, and Jonathon Weakley has provided PowerPoint presentations with detailed information on each county plant.
The authority’s Board of Directors learned this week that the equipment that caused the violation notices and $82,250 in fines from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will be costly to fix.
King George has 35 pump stations, and 31 of them don’t meet DEQ requirements, Weakley said. DEQ has estimated it will cost about $700,000 to bring them up to snuff, and Weakley said he stressed that the Service Authority only has 4,000 customers and can’t assume that kind of expense in one year.
“I just don’t know how they expect us to do that,” said Service Authority Chairman Mike Bennett.
“I’m afraid they’re going to say there’s plenty of low-interest loan money available,” said Board Member Christopher Werle. “Borrow it.”
The Service Authority already is saddled with about $31 million in debt from buying small, outdated systems and bringing them into the county authority. It’s also acquired debt from measures to bring the system into compliance with ever-changing state and federal standards. The Board of Directors has used cash to pay for capital improvements in recent years to avoid adding to the debt.
But problems with wastewater pump stations aren’t the kind that can be ignored.
“As I understand it, we’ve got to have alarms and backup generators in case of power failure so we don’t have raw sewage spewing, is that right?” asked Bennett.
Weakley confirmed it was. The authority has some generators it can re-purpose so the total cost to upgrade the pump stations may not be as high.
The Board of Directors will have a better idea of the financial impact on Tuesday, when consultants from Wiley & Wilson present a report on the status of Service Authority facilities.