The District 5 Report for January 2012 is designed to keep you informed of local and state government actions that impact our homes and communities.* Crime Watch information is included as a supplement to your local Crime Watch Program. York County residents are added to the report distribution list upon request. Comments and questions are always welcome. You can reach me at the phone numbers and email addresses listed below my name. I greatly appreciate your help in disseminating the report to other residents of our communities.
District 5 Representative
York County Board of Supervisors
Home (757) 868-8591
Cell (757) 604-3079
------District 5 Report November 2011*------
1. Crime Watch Notices
Based on the weekly arrest and incident reports that I routinely receive from the County Sheriff’s Office, I am glad to once again report that the crime rate in our area is very low. I believe this is due to vigilance and quick action by our residents and a rapid response by our Sheriff’s Office. Major travel corridors through District 5 such as George Washington Memorial Highway, Hampton Highway, Victory Boulevard, and Big Bethel Road continue to see the bulk of criminal activity. For example, it is not uncommon to see reports of shoplifting, reckless driving, driving under the influence, forgery by check, fraud, and hit and run in areas near the major corridors. The Sheriff’s reports of incidences within residential areas indicate a low rate of domestic abuse, property damage, and possession of illegal or controlled substances. Recently, there have been reports of indecent exposure or inappropriate touching while on school property but again, these incidences are not common.
Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve received several emails concerning the theft of gasoline from cars and boats parked along streets and in driveways. We will have to keep an eye on this situation to see if there is a major trend developing. I recommend that over the next couple of weeks residents make note of the gas gauge indicator for their cars parked outside a garage and report any suspected theft of gasoline to the Sheriff’s Office. Note. Gas tank intake restrictors makes it very difficult to nearly impossible to siphon gas. Check to see if you car has an intake restrictor. If it doesn’t, it’s probably time to buy a locking gas cap.
Here is an observation concerning unoccupied homes. If you have a home near your residence that has been unoccupied for awhile, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and remove any accumulated newspapers and advertisements in and around the newspaper container. Also, it would not hurt to contact the property owner or sales representative to report any significant deterioration to the property such as broken windows, overgrown lawns, falling gutters, etc. You can also, with permission, park your car in the driveway to give the property the appearance that someone might be at home. These actions are recommended because an abandoned houses is a prime target for vandalism, illegal drug use and vagrancy. These types of crimes have a tendency to spawn other criminal activity in and around the property.
2. York County Government and York County School Board Budgets
The 2013 budget process is now under way and I anticipate the budget challenges to be monumental. I say this because of the significant revenue shortfall our County is now facing. Budget actions taken by the Board this year in addressing the shortfalls may have far reaching consequences for our County’s future. In essence, the culture of our County may be transformed by these budget decisions that will impact service such as public education, fire and life safety, law enforcement, parks and recreation, and our libraries. Here is how the budget is shaping up so far. Please keep in mind that my numbers are only approximation. The County Administrator and School Superintendent have yet to submit their budgets.
First, by now you have received your real assessment. On average, the decrease in real estate values is around 4.5 percent, which equates to about a $1 million reduction in revenue for the County based on the current tax rate. Additionally, you know about the closing of the York Refinery and the Phillip Morris factory. These two closings will result in a loss of around $2.2 million in tax revenue. The total for real estate and plant closings equates to a loss of $3.2 million. Now, add to this revenue loss, $800,000 for the unfunded mandate to the County by the state as a contribution the Virginia Retirement System, a $400,000 increase in employee health insurance, a $300,000 increase in employee group life insurance, a $100,000 increase to fund solid waste collection, a small but possible $400,000 increase in employee compensation and another $400,000 for miscellaneous operating expenses and you get a County budget shortfall that so far totals about $5.6 million. But wait, there’s more. Let’s not forget that our school system is facing a budget shortfall of $8.9 million. The School Superintendent publically stated that the school system will eliminate through service cuts about $4.3 million of the shortfall and is asking the County to cover the remaining $4.6 million. Add the School Board’s request of $4.6 million to the County’s estimated budget shortfall of $5.5 million and you get $10.2 million. This $10.2 million is the estimated amount of tax revenue that must be added to the County’s current 2012 budget to maintain the same level of governmental service in 2013.
Again, the estimates above are preliminary but I suspect they are not far off the mark. Yes, there is a significant budget challenge for the County. The main budget question we now face is whether or not to keep the same level of local government service? If the answer is yes and there are no additional funds received from the state, then we may be looking at a 10 cent or more increase in the tax rate. If the answer is no, then public services will be reduced. The local government service areas with the largest amount of discretionary funding are our schools, law enforcement, fire and life safety, parks and recreation, and libraries. You may recall the public’s reaction to the Board of Supervisors decision to save $100,000 by reducing recycling collection to every other week. It will be interesting to see the public reaction to service cuts when the Supervisors began addressing the $10.2 million tax revenue shortfall.
This is your County and the Board of Supervisors work for you. Let the Supervisors hear your thoughts concerning the services you receive. Should we maintain, cut or increases services? Which ones? If you wish to provide input to the entire Board of Supervisors, send an email to BOA@yorkcounty.gov.
Ever hear of devolution? Probably not. How about unfunded mandates? Maybe? They are not the same but can have the same impact on local governments. In an OP/Ed by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) Executive Director Jim Campbell printed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Dec 11, he wrote: For a number of years, the Virginia General Assembly has boasted its success of “ not raising your taxes.” But is this claim really true? No, they haven’t recently raised your income tax. And they haven’t increased the sales tax. Nor the gasoline tax, which helps pay for your roads. They actually reduced or eliminated some taxes, such as the estate tax. But your local property taxes has probably gone up. And while state lawmakers beat their chests and brag about reducing taxes, they are actually vicariously causing local property taxes to increase. How? Devolution.
During the past decade, the state has devolved more and more services to local government and even at times shunned its constitutional responsibilities to deliver or pay for services to our citizens. In order to balance the budget and not raise taxes, legislators have resorted to gimmicks such as underfunding the Virginia Retirement System, or reducing statutory payments for law enforcement departments, or merely shifting the funding of state-mandated programs to localities. According to the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly “shall provide a system of free public elementary and secondary education.” Over the years, public schools have been supported by the state, with supplemental funding coming from local tax dollars. Recently, however, the state has gradually reduced it proportionate share of funding for public education, thereby shifting more cost to local government.
The OP/Ed article goes on to point out that recently the state has been severely challenged to balance its budget without raising taxes. Without sufficient revenue to meet its expenses, the legislature simply reduced its contribution to a number of programs that are funded jointly from state and local sources such as libraries, social services and constitutional officers (Sheriff, Commissioner of the Revenue, Treasurer, Commonwealth Attorney, and Clerk of the Court). Now the state wants to devolve the transportation system of secondary roads and bridges to the counties.
Mr. Campbell’s article underscores the devolution challenges faced by York County with its 2013 budget. The state’s unfunded mandate for local governments to increase their contributions to the Virginia Retirement System adds an $800,000 bill to the County’s budget and a $4.5 million bill to the School Board’s budget. Who do you thinks pays this $5.3 million mandated bill? You do. Another good example is highlighted in the January 27, 2012 edition of the Virginia Municipal League, titled “Update”. The “Update” article points out that Virginia local governments budgeted $6.5 billion to operate public schools in FY10, which is $3.2 billion more than required by the state. York County is one of the local governments. Why? Because public education is our community’s top priority and we will not accept inadequate funding of our schools.
Our York County Sheriff’s Department is another good example of devolution. Today, York County residents fund over half the 112 law enforcement employees within the Sheriff’s Office. Just think of it. The state’s formula for law enforcement would provide only around 60 law enforcement employees. Why do we have more that 60? Well, for one thing the Sheriff through use of the nationally developed formula says we need more and most importantly, the citizens of York County demand a much higher level of security than that provided by the state.
The devolution of transportation referred to in the OP/Ed piece, is reflected of our current Secondary Road program. Ten years ago when I first took office, the County received about $2.5 million a year for secondary road improvements. Today, we receive about $200,000 a year. When was the last time you saw a neighborhood street being repaved? If devolution of transportation continues, don’t be surprised to find York County owning all the roads in the County and your tax rate increasing by a minimum of 40 cents.
Mr. Campbell says it best, “Enough is enough!”
3. Marquis Shopping Center
Recently, there has been some gross misinformation floating around concerning the Marquis Shopping Center, which is located in the upper end of the County near Water Country. The issue centers on the tie between the County and the bond refinancing used to help support the Marquis. One of our regional papers got it so wrong in its editorial, it was embarrassing. To put it bluntly, the bonds issued for the project are not debt of York County. The bonds are debt of the Marquis Community Development Authority. This authority was created by the County per the Code of the Virginia as a means to finance the public infrastructure necessary for the Marquis. The authority was also designed to shield the County from the debt if the new taxes generated by the businesses in the Marquis are not sufficient to cover the bond debt. There is no legal or moral obligation for the County to provide funds for the debt service over and above the new taxes generated by the businesses. In fact, the Board of Supervisors took action that specifically prohibits the use of tax dollars, in excess of the new revenues generated by the Marquis, to cover the bonds.
There is also a misconception that if Marquis CDA defaults on the bonds, the County would be able to keep all the taxes from the development. Again this is a misconception. The County’s Bond Counsel McGuire Woods, LLP, has advised that in their opinion this would not be the case. The County’s agreement to provide the new tax revenues generated by the project for debt service would remain after the default and until the bonds reach maturity in 2041.
Finally, there is a misconception that the County is providing services without receiving offsetting tax revenue from the Center. Since the Marquis’ inception it was recognized that the County would incur additional expenses for services, such as law enforcement and fire protection. Since the shopping center was opened the County has continued to collect and retain the taxes paid on the property before it was developed as well as a portion of the new taxes generated by the business. This tax revenue is used to compensate the County for the additional expense incurred as a result of the Marquis’ opening. Since 2008 the County has retained $1,531,154 from tax revenues generated by the shopping center. Under the terms of the proposed bond refinancing the County will continue to receive a minimum of $300,000 in annual tax revenues, $150,000 in existing taxes and new taxes of $150,000 (inflated by 3% annually beginning in 2017). The minimum total of $150,000 in new taxes exceeds any costs incurred by the County to provide services to the shopping center.
4. Youth Commission
The York County Board of Supervisors is currently seeking students who are interested in representing youth interests and concerns by serving on the York County Youth Commission for the 2012-2013 school year. Applicants must be York County residents currently enrolled in grades 8-11. The Youth Commission’s primary purpose is to serve as a link between the Board of Supervisors and the County’s youth by representing youth-related needs and issues. In addition, Commission members typically participate in rewarding community service projects, learn about county government, sponsor countywide high school social events, and build leadership skills through projects and various team-building activities. A completed application form and a letter of recommendation must be received at the York County Parks and Recreation office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, 2012. After reviewing the applications, the Board of Supervisors will appoint up to three teens from each of the county's five voting districts. Application forms and complete program details are available for downloading from the York County Youth Commission’s website at www.ycyc.info. Hard copy forms are also available at the Yorktown and Tabb Libraries, the Williamsburg and James City County Libraries, and at the York County Parks and Recreation office located at 100 County Drive (23692).
5. Contact VDOT - Report a road problem to VDOT, by either calling 1-800-367-7623 or filling out a work order online to www.virginiadot.org. On the left side of the VDOT webpage you will see a small box with an orange banner labeled “Report Road Problems.”
6. Board of Supervisors Actions
a. Approved Legislative Package. Every year prior to the Virginia General Assembly (GA) session, the Supervisors meets with our County’s state representatives (Senators – Norment, Locke and Miller; Delegates Poggee, Helsel, Watson) to present a wish list of legislative proposals. This year there are 15 items on the list:
(1) State Budget – Request that GA recognize that local governments cannot absorb the entire burden of the state’s budget difficulties. State needs to stop shifting program costs to the localities
(2) Transportation – Provide a comprehensive statewide transportation program for highway expansion and maintenance.
(3) General Real Property Tax Relief – Request the GA to authorize localities to offer real estate tax exemption on residential property with a “means test.” The “means test” should be based on income and assets.
(4) Seatbelts Requirements – Allow enforcement of adult seatbelt requirement as a primary offense.
(5) State Support for Education – State needs to fully fund Standards of Quality (SOQ) and recognize that the SOQ alone does not recognize the actual education needs of Virginia localities.
(6) Military – Support the continued presence in Virginia of military and other federal facilities. The recent news of another possible BRAC makes this action imperative.
(7) Tourism – Support Virginia’s tourism industry by increasing funding for the Virginia Tourism Corporation in support of advertising. It is estimated that there is a $7 return to the area’s economy for every $1 spent on tourism.
(8) Juvenile Community Crime Control Act – GA needs to restore funding for a number of programs supporting the juvenile courts, detention, and counseling. State funding for York County has been reduced from $1 million in FY 2002 to $262,000 in FY 2010.
(9) Real Estate Tax Rates – Requested that the GA refrain from adopting bills which place restrictions on local government authority to establish real estate tax rates. State mandates and the ongoing devolution of services require increased funding at the local level. Real estate tax is local government’s primary source of revenue to pay for these services.
(10) Transient Occupancy Taxes – Requested clarification on how the Transient Occupancy Taxes are assessed.
(11) Equalization of Administrative Fees Chargeable for Industrial Revenue Bonds – This action will lower the fees that York County pays to fund its bonds.
(12) Predatory Lending – Request that the GA cap interest on payday loans at 36%. This includes all fees.
(13) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – Exempt from FOIA any records that disclosure the cellular telephones numbers, pagers, and similar devices provided to firefighters and emergency medical response personnel.
(14) Fund state and Local Partnerships for Critical Services – Request full funding for mental health services, affordable housing, alternatives to juvenile detention, and the cost of offices of local constitutional offices.
(15) Open Container Laws – Request that the Code of Virginia be amended to make it illegal to possess an opened container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle while on a public highway.
b. Adopted Ordinance No. 11-14R changes to the County’s Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance. As reported in my last District 5 Report, proposed changes to the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance are received from the County staff, citizens, business, and even the Supervisors. These changes are reviewed by the Board of Supervisor to determine their merit and then submitted to the Planning Commission for a more detailed review and vetting with the public. The Planning Commission then submits it recommendations on each proposed change to the Board of Supervisors for final acceptance or rejection. Several aspects of the proposed Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance are worth mentioning here.
(1) Chicken Keeping - While the Planning Commission recommended that a Special Use Permit be required for chicken keeping in R13 Districts, the Board of Supervisors felt that the $400 fee was way too much and approved chicken keeping as a by-right activity (no Special Use and no fee) within the Resource Conservation (RC), Rural Residential (RR), Residential (R-20) and Residential (R13) Districts. Property owners in these districts are permitted to have one hen per 2,500 square feet of lot space up to 16 hens. If you live within a homeowners association, check your covenants and restrictions to determine if you are permitted to have poultry. County code does not supersede homeowner covenants and restrictions.
(2) Inclusive Zoning - York County has an inclusive zoning policy for both residential and commercial districts. This policy has been in effect since 1983 and its origins can be traced back to 1957. Essentially, inclusive zoning means that an activity or use is not permitted in a district unless it is listed in the Zoning Ordinance. The Board of Supervisors approved a modification to the wording in Zoning Ordinance to clarify the inclusive zoning policy. Unfortunately, some residents have interpreted this wording to mean that such activities as throwing a ball, hitting golf balls, flying a kite, playing horseshoes, gardening, mowing the grass, etc are not permitted because they are not listed. This interpretation is incorrect. The zoning ordinance contains a caveat to the inclusive zoning policy, which basically says that, “Other uses and structures of a similar nature which are customarily associated with and incidental to residential uses…” are permitted. Essentially, this means that you can do whatever you want to do on your property until is become an issue within the community, at which point the County’s zoning administrator will have to make a ruling on the activity.
c. Adopted Resolution R-11-136 formally recognizing a sister city relationship between York County and Port Vendres, France – Port Vendres has a significant historical tie to York County as a result of America’s war of independence. There have been several exchange visits over the years with residents of Port Vendres and forming the Sister City relationship with the community is fitting for international friendship.
d. It is an honor once again to be elected by my fellow Supervisors to serve as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. I look forward to representing all the citizens of York County and in working with my fellow Supervisors and the residents of our wonderful county to address the many challenges we will face over the coming year. Ms. Sheila Noll was elected as Vice Chairman. She has over 16 years of experience as a Supervisor in York County.
* Comments and opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily represent the position of other members of the York County Board of Supervisors. If you wish to obtain comments from members of the Board of Supervisors, please visit the York County website at http://www.yorkcounty.gov. Supervisor contact information is located on the website under the title "County Government." Homeowner Associations are encouraged to use portions of this report in preparing their association newsletters.