Letter: Taxpayers should review Gloucester’s CIP
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was presented at the Jan. 16 meeting of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors. The plan was prepared by a committee appointed by the county administrator and included supervisors.
It would be in the best interest of Gloucester taxpayers to review the CIP. The projects selected for recommendation and those deferred are listed; the information is available in the presentation materials. Just as important, but not available, is the criteria used to make the selections and prioritize the projects.
Although the criteria for review were not provided, the mindset behind the plan is partially revealed in statements concerning funding. The plan calls for 30 cents of the personal property tax rate to be split between county and school for vehicles. This is a very bad precedent. Earmarked funds tend to lose critical review over time as they become entrenched. The actual need for vehicles should be reviewed every year, as well as their position on the priority listing for expenditures. Having a plan in place for replacement is good planning. Earmarking funds is not.
Even more frightening is the idea that an amount equal to 12 cents of the real property revenue should be dedicated to capital expenditures. The presentation justified the rate because 12 cents was the current cost of servicing the county’s long-term debt.
Apparently, the thought to reduce the tax rate once the debt was retired did not occur to the committee or the board members that sat on the committee. Incurring debt to accomplish large infrastructure projects such as sanitation and water systems, schools and public protection is a part of the government’s roles to serve the public good. Each project should be evaluated and funded for the benefit it will provide, not just because there are tax dollars available from an arbitrary earmark.
Planning for capital expenditures is part of sound financial controls. The annual prioritizing of the expenditures during the budget process provides an opportunity for project review. The earmarking of funds reduces the review process, reduces the expenditures and could leave more deserving projects unfunded.
Please review the Capital Improvement Plan and contact your board representatives before the next meeting. If history repeats itself, the CIP will be added to the consent agenda for passage without an opportunity for public comment after the initial presentation by the board.
I, for one, wonder why every utilities project that would provide direct services to the public was deferred for the purchase of more county property for storage. One project takes land from the tax rolls while the other would provide revenue, enhance development, and increase the real property tax revenue from higher assessments justified by enhanced county services. I am sure the board members on the CIP committee had logical reasons for the position taken on the utilities projects, as well as $5 million in new debt for school maintenance and would like to hear it before the plan is adopted.
Gloucester Point, Va.