Tonights Board of Supervisors meeting was jammed packed with ceremony, information, and intrigue. The evening began with the recognition of Wayne Acors and Calvin Taylor’s long service on the Board, which came to an end this evening. Other outgoing civil servants were also recognized and appreciated. I have a great deal of respect for the decorum of our Board, our staff, and everyone working for our local government offices. I remain convinced that these truly are some of the friendliest and hardest working county employees I’ve ever seen.
That said, the latter half of the meeting was dedicated to satisfying some of our wealthier residents pressing issues, clearly intended to be resolved before the new board members take their seats in January. I must say, I was disappointed to watch as the board essentially set aside their own rules and regulations to accommodate two separate property owners who have acted either outside of the rules and regulations, or who simply want them adjusted for their own convenience. The Board’s decision to satisfy these special requests was absolutely the wrong decision, not that either issue was of any great importance, nor were they even substantiative enough for me to bother writing about. What was troubling was the process. Procedural integrity for a Board of Supervisors is extremely important. Exceptions lead to exceptions – and unless you can find a State Senator to represent you before the board, most of these exceptions are unlikely to work in your favor.
Before the meat of the meeting began, I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Sili regarding our county spending and debt. As the board came back from break, they voted for a spontaneous $30,000 road project for which the board had absolutely no time to consider. Mr. Sili attempted to discern why this particular project was of such pressing importance, for which he received no answer. Mr. Black also attempted to find some particular relevance to the request, but was denied. So, without any process or hearing, Caroline County just spent $30,000 on a pet road project. Now, in the big picture, $30,000 isn’t that big of a deal and it isn’t anything to complain about, but we know that $30,000 here and $60,000 there eventually ads up to real money for the county. Mr. Sili thoughtfully suggested that we find a way to include such projects in the budget, but found little support with the rest of the Board.
Two meeting ago, Mr. Thomas saved the county tens of thousands of dollars by preventing a massive spending hike on Caroline County waste disposal operations. So I was surprised that he supported $30,000 on some ambiguous road project. In the future, I would hope that we’d see more consistency from Mr. Thomas regarding unnecessary spending measures.
I was delighted to hear from Delegate Buddy Fowler and Senator Ryan McDougle. Their time before the board wasn’t exactly sexy, but it was honestly of the greatest importance of the night.
One of the most important issues of the evening was raised by Wayne Acors regarding the BPOL (Business/Professional/Occupational Licenses) Tax revenue, which our House of Delegates is interested in getting rid of, but which also generates a great deal of revenue for the county. Mr. Acors admitted that it’s an unfair tax and a bad tax, but inquired as to whether or not our State Legislature had considered the fiscal consequences on the counties. Delegate Fowler explained that, yes, they were aware of local consequences and that alternative means of revenue are being considered. One of the Delegate Fowler’s best attributes is that he is committed to replacing quantitative taxes with smarter taxes. Driving revenue isn’t the only consequence of a particular tax. Taxes effect economic growth, employment, and corporate investment, and Virginia is getting killed by other States that have instituted smarter tax structures. However, Mr. Acors was correct in asking for McDougle and Fowler to reassure the Board that they aren’t just going to strip us of a source of revenue without replacing it somewhere else.
Mr. Taylor and Mr. Underwood were most concerned about K-12 Education. Mr. Underwood did make an excellent point about the failure of SOLs to serve as a guarantee of a quality education. Both Senator McDougle and Delegate Fowler explained that while SOLs exist to ensure a certain level of educational expectations, they do not drive quality. Teachers do.
Jeff Black brought up something that he and Delegate Fowler have been working on closely for years, which is the hideousness known as Aqua Water. I will continue to research this issue for an article I hope to publish in February next year. I have many friends in Lake Lan’dor who absolutely adore Mr. Black for his tirelessness in combating corporate mistreatment, but I do feel comfortable that Mr. Black and Delegate Fowler will prevail over the long run.
Mr. Thomas brought up an incredibly important issue regarding the formula which oversees school funding. Our Caroline Students are bussed in from a very large area, making transportation a big expense for the county. He asked Senator McDougle and Delegate Fowler to consider factoring in transportation costs into the education funding calculus. Senator McDougle explained that he was hesitant to do so, since every time these formula’s are brought up, they are always adjusted to favor Northern Virginia over the rest of the State. If he believed we could actually pass a fairer formula, he’d be for it, but he does not believe this to be possible in our current environment.
All in all, tonight was a wrapping up of sorts. I have enjoyed getting to know Wayne Acors, but have also greatly enjoyed getting to know my new Supervisor, Clay Forehand. For the purposes of full disclosure, while I supported Mr. Acors for Supervisor in the Madison District, I was lucky enough to also get to know his replacement. I fully expect Mr. Forehand to serve the interests of the Madison District, to be a good steward of our public funds, and to promote and oversee Ladysmith with our best interests at heart. Regardless who we voted for here in the Madison District, as I wrote at Virginia Right, we’d win either way. So, tonight, we said goodbye to Mr. Acors, and in 2016 we say hello to Mr. Forehand. I am confident that we remain in good hands and I believe that our fiscal discipline in Caroline County will be a priority moving forward.