This week in county government; Supervisors adopt $146.2 million budget; BOS roundup; Throneburg claims Democratic nomination in VA05
Engage Louisa is a community newsletter aimed at keeping folks informed about Louisa County government. It’s free, non-partisan, and powered by volunteers. We believe our community is stronger and our government serves us better when we increase transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
This week in county government: public meetings, April 25-April 30
Tuesday, April 26
Human Services Advisory Board, 103 McDonald Street, Louisa, 11 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Wednesday, April 27
Ag/Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm. (public notice) At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here, including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
Supervisors adopt $146.2 million budget
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 Monday night to adopt a $146.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2023 including $135.4 million for operations and maintenance and $10.8 million for capital projects. In a 5-1 vote, the board also approved a slate of level tax rates. Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow was the only board member to vote in opposition. Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry was absent. (meeting materials, video)
Barlow didn’t provide a reason for opposing the budget and tax rates during Monday’s meeting. Like his colleagues, he voted for several measures over the last year that contributed to higher operating costs and increased capital spending including pay hikes for school bus drivers and sheriff’s deputies and a significant investment in broadband deployment. Barlow also pushed for the inclusion of a new emergency communications tower in the capital budget that will largely benefit his district. The board allotted $1 million to pay for the tower.
Supervisors heard from a handful of residents throughout the budget process, including several Monday night, who urged them to cut the real estate tax rate and trim spending in the face of a more than 12 percent hike in real estate assessments. The board opted to keep the rate at 72 cents per $100 of assessed value, meaning most property owners will see their tax bills rise. Supervisors haven’t changed the rate since 2015, when it increased four cents. It remains one of the lowest real estate tax rates in the area.
The county’s expenditures, including operating and capital costs, increased $17.3 million, or more than 13 percent, over the FY22 budget. Louisa County Public Schools’ roughly $81.7 million budget accounts for 56 percent of the county’s $146.2 million in spending. The schools’ budget increased by nearly $8.5 million or 11.5 percent. Public safety, including funding for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office and Fire and EMS, accounts for the second highest spending allotment, totaling about 13 percent of the budget or $19.45 million. Public safety expenses increased by about $3 million or 18.5 percent.
The county’s $135.4 million in operating expenses is $13.9 million more than in FY22, an 11.45 percent hike. The rise in operating costs is driven, in part, by a five percent increase in salaries for teachers and county staff and a 16 percent increase in health insurance costs, according to Finance Director Wanda Colvin. The operating budget also includes 12 new staff positions including three new road deputies and three new dispatchers for the sheriff’s office.
The $10.8 million capital budget, covering long-lasting and high-value tangible assets for purchase or construction, saw a $3.4 million jump over the adopted FY22 Capital Improvement Plan even as the board pushed back millions in spending on construction projects. Supervisors hope construction costs, which have been impacted by inflation and kinks in the supply chain, will stabilize in the coming year. The projected FY24 CIP includes nearly $50 million in capital spending including two school construction projects.
The FY23 capital budget includes nearly $3 million for Firefly’s Regional Internet Service Expansion Project, $1.3 million for fire apparatus and EMS equipment replacement, $565,000 for new vehicles for the sheriff’s office, and $1 million for an emergency communications tower in Barlow’s district, among other expenses. It also includes $2.3 million for school projects covering new buses, technology upgrades, improvements to the baseball and softball complex, and funding to design a proposed career and technical education center.
Of the county’s roughly $140.8 million in revenue, over half comes from general property taxes with about 33 percent drawn from state and federal sources. The county’s total revenues jumped more than $15 million over FY22, about 12 percent. Revenue from general property taxes is up nearly 10 percent, or about $6.6 million, and revenue from other local taxes, including sales tax, is up 13 percent or roughly $1.3 million.
The operations budget includes a $5.5 million surplus, Colvin said, which the board can use toward the $10.8 million in capital spending. That leaves a roughly $5.4 million budget shortfall, but the county has $9 million in its unrestricted fund balance, $8 million in capital project reserves, and $3 million in school capital reserves from which it can draw those funds. Colvin said that LCPS will tap its capital reserves to cover school projects.
County staff is still awaiting a final state budget, which could impact local numbers. Colvin said that if lawmakers don’t agree on a budget before supervisors’ May 2 meeting, when they plan to appropriate funding, they can tweak the budget as necessary after appropriation.
Supervisors will consider enacting one tweak at their next meeting that impacts revenue. They’ll hold a public hearing on changes to a program that offers real estate tax relief to some elderly and disabled residents. The changes would lift from $40,000 to $50,000 the annual income cap that, in part, determines eligibility for the program and reconfigure the sliding scale that determines how much relief residents qualify for. Colvin already removed $500,000 from the county’s revenue to cover the estimated cost of the changes.
Click here to check out the county budget and other budget-related resources
BOS roundup: Supervisors adopt precincts, talk coyotes and more
During a meeting that spanned just an hour and 20 minutes Monday night, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors covered a lot of ground. Beyond adopting the FY23 budget and tax rates, the board approved new voting precincts and polling places as part of the decennial redistricting process, opted to set aside an ordinance that would’ve doled out cash rewards for slain coyotes, discussed projects that the county could submit for federal funding via the Community Project Funding process, and more. Check out a meeting roundup below. (meeting materials, video)
Board adopts new voting precincts, polling places: After adopting new lines for the county’s seven voting districts at its April 4 meeting, the board finished off the decennial redistricting process by adopting the precincts that comprise those districts and the polling places where voters will cast their ballots over the next decade.
The new map includes 14 precincts, instead of the 15 under the previous map, consolidating both the Mineral and Jackson Districts into one precinct each while adding a third precinct to the Louisa District. The map assigns each precinct a polling place, siting the polling places for two neighboring precincts at the same location.
Virginia law requires that precincts are wholly contained in larger state legislative and congressional districts, necessitating the creation of a third Louisa precinct. Maps approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in December place the entire county in the Fifth Congressional District but split it between two new state Senate and House of Delegates Districts. The far western end of the new Louisa District falls into different state legislative districts than portions to the east.
State law also requires that polling places are housed in accessible public places and that they lie either within their precinct’s boundaries or no more than a mile outside those boundaries.
In the case of the Louisa 3 precinct, county officials struggled to identify an accessible building for the polling place within the confines of the small, rural area. They ultimately opted to place it at Living Grace Church, which also serves as the polling place for the Green Springs 2 precinct. The church, located along Route 15, lies within the Green Springs 2 precinct but less than a mile from Louisa 3’s boundary.
General Registrar Cris Watkins said that even though Green Springs 2 and Louisa 3 will share the facility, the polling places will be separate, with different check-ins, voting machines, and election officers.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said that officials faced a similar dilemma when searching for a polling place for a second Mineral precinct, indicating that officials considered three churches located in the northwest portion of the Mineral District, which now stretches beyond the westernmost reaches of Lake Anna. None of the facilities worked out, he said, prompting the board to place the entire Mineral District in one precinct. Mineral District voters will cast their Election Day ballots at Louisa County Middle School.
Not only did the board approve a new precinct map, they also adopted new names for some precincts, replacing descriptors like “Elk Creek” and “Mechanicsville” with district names and numbers. The Elk Creek precinct, for example, has been redrawn and named Cuckoo 3 while the Mechanicsville precinct has been reconfigured and named Green Springs 2. Watkins said the new names were chosen for consistency since some of the county’s precincts were already identified by district names and numbers.
Louisa County’s new voting districts require review and approval by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office. Once the maps are final, registered voters will receive a notice from the Registrar informing them of their voting districts, precinct, and polling place.
Louisa County precincts and polling places
Green Springs 1: Zion United Methodist Church
Green Springs 2: Living Grace Church
Louisa 1: Louisa Volunteer Fire Department
Louisa 2: Trevilians Elementary School
Louisa 3: Living Grace Church
Patrick Henry 1: Moss-Nuckols Elementary School
Patrick Henry 2: Standing on the Promise of God Church
Mineral 1: Louisa County Middle School
Cuckoo 1: Rising Sun Baptist Church
Cuckoo 2: Louisa Lodge
Cuckoo 3: Elk Creek Baptist Church
Jackson 1: Jouett Elementary School
Mountain Road 1: Holly Grove Volunteer Fire Department
Mountain Road 2: Central Virginia Assembly of God Church
Board takes no action on proposed coyote bounty program: The board declined to act on a draft ordinance that would’ve established a targeted coyote bounty program in Louisa County with one supervisor saying he has plenty of friends willing to shoot coyotes for free.
The program would’ve paid cash rewards for coyotes slain on qualifying property, allowing landowners with parcels zoned agricultural to apply to participate by completing a selective removal form and indicating that coyotes posed a threat to pets, livestock, or humans.
The county planned to provide landowners with tags for coyotes killed via the program and catalogue the number of animals removed when carcasses were brought to the landfill. The proposed ordinance didn’t specify how much money an individual would receive for slaying a coyote or set aside any funding.
A Patrick Henry District resident and professional trapper urged the board to establish a bounty program at the board’s December 20 meeting, telling supervisors that he’s flooded with calls from farmers and other residents experiencing coyote conflict.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said that he didn’t feel comfortable using taxpayer money for the program, pointing out that a representative from the Department of Wildlife Resources told the board that bounty programs are ineffective in controlling localities’ coyote population. The programs can help mitigate coyote conflict when implemented at the hyperlocal level, according to DWR.
“I just have a hard time understanding why we would take county funds, taxpayer money, to pay one individual to remove coyotes from their property,” Adams said, adding, “Maybe I’m the only guy who has enough redneck hunter friends but I know guys that would line up to go down there and shoot them for free.”
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams, who owns a cattle farm in eastern Louisa, and Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes crafted the program’s guidelines in consultation with DWR. Williams said that they recognized the program wouldn’t have a wide impact.
“The only reason we could come up with to have (a bounty program) was in a limited case like this. We took to heart that you’re not going to solve the coyote problem in the county, ” Williams said, noting that he’s unsure who would use the program. “If I have a problem with coyotes, I’m going to take care of it myself.”
Barnes suggested that the board keep the ordinance on hand in case the coyote threat increases.
Coyotes are considered a nuisance species in Virginia, meaning no permit is required to kill them and it’s always open season. Virginia law permits localities to establish, by ordinance, bounty programs. Only five counties have active programs.
Search for land for sports complex continues: Supervisors voted 5-1 to allocate up to $20,000 aimed at finding a suitable location for a multi-field sports complex. According to some county officials, the complex would provide much-needed recreational opportunities for youth and potentially draw out-of-county visitors by hosting tournaments and other events.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes asked for the funding, which he said would be used for soil work and sketches. The board previously appropriated up to $15,000 for soil work at potential sites.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow opposed the allocation, asking if supervisors should wait until they identify a potential site before committing more money.
Barnes said that the board has properties in mind including “county land.”
So far, only one potential site has been publicly discussed: 190 acres of county-owned land along Route 15 just north of Zion Crossroads. That property, located in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, is home to ultra-deep wells that provide water to the area. It’s long been the source of controversy and, occasionally, litigation between the county and residents of the historic district.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones, who has stated publicly that she opposes siting the park on the well property, emphasized Monday night that the county hasn’t settled on any location and is simply investigating suitable sites.
“We haven’t decided directly on that county land. There’s still many other options out there that we are considering so we are only at the part where we are looking at developing an idea of what we want,” she said.
County officials included a request for more than $8 million for the complex in the FY24 Capital Improvement Plan. Barnes said at the board’s March 21 meeting that voters will ultimately decide if the project is funded via a referendum on the ballot this November. The board hasn’t formally voted to move forward with a referendum.
Board okays items for consideration for federal funding: Louisa County could see more money coming its way from the Community Project Funding process, a program that allows Members of Congress to directly submit funding requests for locally supported projects.
Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger’s office asked the county to submit ideas for potential funding via the FY23 appropriations process. Her office will rank the requests based on their likelihood of receiving funding and select a project or projects for submission.
According to the program’s guidelines, members are allowed to request money for up to 15 projects in their districts but there’s no guarantee which, if any, will receive funding. The projects must be submitted by either a state or local government entity or non-profit organization and demonstrate community support via a resolution from a local governing body or other documentation.
Supervisors permitted county staff to bring a handful of items to Spanberger’s office for consideration, most of which are either in the current Capital Improvement Plan and/or slotted for potential funding in a future CIP. The county’s wish list includes funding for an indoor pool, a multi-field sports complex, fire and EMS equipment, an emergency radio communications tower, improvements to the General District Courthouse, broadband deployment, and park development at the Betty Queen Center.
Goodwin said that if the county can secure money for an item in the FY23 CIP, like the Betty Queen Center park or a new fire truck, it would decrease the budget deficit. The county’s expenditures exceed its revenues for the upcoming fiscal year so supervisors will have to dip into the general fund or reserves to cover capital spending.
Spanberger secured more than $6.4 million via the FY22 Community Projects Funding process for 10 projects, one for each locality in her district. Awards ranged from $15,000 to purchase a van for Goochland Cares, a nonprofit that serves elderly, low-income, and disabled residents in Goochland County to $1.8 million to expand Spotsylvania County’s Motts Run Water Treatment Plant. Louisa County received $775,000 to build a mixed-income affordable housing community in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. It’s unclear where the community will be built.
Supervisors approve letter of support for Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation grant applications: The Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation is working with Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger’s office on a pair of applications for federal grant funding that would aid the organization’s home repair program and allow it to launch an extensive home rehab initiative.
Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to submit a letter supporting the applications. FLHF Executive Director Kim Hyland told the board that the organization is applying for a $150,000 grant to augment an existing program that provides no-interest loans to elderly and low-income residents in need of home repairs. The program uses grant funds to supplement the loans, which are provided to residents who make less than 50 percent of the area’s median income. Hyland said that the average age of loan recipients is 71 years old, noting that the program “helps people age in place more safely and more comfortably.” The program currently provides money for emergency repairs to roofs, plumbing, electric, HVAC systems, hot water heaters, wells, and septic systems, according to the board’s letter.
The organization is also applying for $1 million in funding via the Community Development Block Grant program. Hyland said that by pursuing the funds through Spanberger’s office, FLHF could avoid the competitive grant process. The organization would use the funds for an extensive home rehab program, spending between $25,000 and $50,000 to repair between 20 and 40 homes, according to Hyland.
“Homes that contribute to blight in our community often require multiple systems to be repaired. The FLHF is prepared to organize local contractors and volunteers to provide significant rehabilitation services in these homes,” the board’s letter states.
Board appropriates grant funding for pad site design at Shannon Hill Regional Business Park: Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a $300,000 supplemental appropriation for the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park. The county received the funds via a grant from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Business Ready Sites program. The resolution also authorized the approval of a performance agreement.
Economic Development Director Andy Wade told the board that the county plans to use the money to design a 20 to 25-acre building pad site within the business park. He said that the county opted to seek funding for the pad site after receiving feedback from J.M. Mullis, a consultant that specializes in site selection. The county hopes the park, located along Interstate 64, will attract distribution centers, data centers, and other industrial development.
VEDP uses a tier system to assess the readiness of potential industrial or commercial sites for marketing for economic development purposes. According to information included in the board’s agenda packet, the design of the pad site is expected to move the business park toward tier four status, meaning all the facility’s infrastructure is in place or will be deliverable within 12 months and all permit issues have been identified and quantified. Currently, the park sits at tier three status, which means its zoned industrial and due diligence, including a wetlands survey, geotechnical boring, cultural resources study, Phase 1 environmental study, among other tasks, is complete. Tier five is the highest assessment level. Those sites are considered shovel-ready.
Wade said that the grant requires a 100 percent local match and that the county has already met that obligation with funds previously expended for purchasing and developing the site. The county has one year to use the grant money.
Board approves renewal of Goldmine Creek and Ellisville AFDs: Supervisors voted unanimously to renew both the Goldmine Creek and Ellisville Agricultural and Forestal Districts, which stretch over more than four thousand acres in northwestern Louisa County. AFDs are a conservation tool that allows landowners engaged in farming and forestry to voluntarily prohibit development on their property. The districts require review and renewal by the Board of Supervisors every 10 years.
The Ellisville AFD, originally created in 1992, currently includes 16 parcels and covers just under 1,000 acres. The Goldmine Creek AFD includes 33 parcels encompassing about 3,334 acres.
Louis L. Kean, Jr. LLC withdrew a request to remove a 288-acre parcel from the Mountain Road AFD, prompting the board to cancel a third public hearing focused on the districts. Property owners are free to remove parcels from an AFD when the district is up for review and renewal but withdrawal outside of that 10-year interval requires Board of Supervisors’ approval. The Mountain Road AFD is up for review and renewal by August 1, 2022.
Throneburg claims Dem nomination in VA05
Josh Throneburg, a Charlottesville pastor and small business owner, claimed the Democratic nomination in the Fifth Congressional District earlier this month after his opponent, gun control advocate and Henry County resident Andy Parker, failed to qualify for the June 21 primary.
Throneburg will likely face incumbent Bob Good in the November 8 general election. Good, a Campbell County resident and former Liberty University official, faces one challenger for the Republican nomination, Air Force veteran and Charlottesville GOP Chair Dan Moy. The pair will face off in a May 21 convention at Hampden-Sydney College.
“I’m running for Congress because the people of the Fifth are my friends and neighbors, and this past year of meeting voters has cemented my resolve to be the kind of representative they need. I’m grateful to my team and the dedicated volunteers who helped me achieve this milestone, and even more grateful to the hundreds of voters from across the Fifth District who placed their trust in me when they signed our petitions,” Throneburg said in an April 12 Facebook post shortly after learning he secured the nomination.
Parker’s campaign failed to turn in 1,000 signatures from qualified Fifth District voters, a requirement to get on the primary ballot. After learning he lacked the necessary signatures, Parker said in a statement to the Washington Post that he planned to take “a few days to perform a forensic audit on our petition signatures” then weigh his options. He conceded the nomination to Throneburg last Monday.
“I congratulate Josh Throneburg, the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District. I will do what I can to help Josh defeat Bob Good, a Trumper extremist who does not reflect the values of the people of VA05. I was looking forward to a spirited primary and campaign against Good this fall, but to my great disappointment our campaign did not meet the technical requirements to be on the primary ballot,” Parker said in a written statement.
According to the Democratic Party of Virginia, Parker turned in 1,093 signatures at the April 7 deadline but only 937 were accepted. The party advises candidates to turn in at least 1,500 signatures to ensure they meet the 1,000-signature threshold.
The signature collection process was complicated this year by redistricting as thousands of voters were moved into new congressional districts. Fifth District Democratic Committee Chair Patricia Harper-Tunley told Cardinal News that five individuals reviewed Parker’s signatures several times. She said some signatures were rejected because they lacked matching addresses while others were disqualified because they weren’t from Fifth District voters.
Parker gained a national profile as a gun control activist in 2015 after his daughter, journalist Alison Parker, was shot and killed on live television while covering a story for Roanoke’s WDBJ. He raised nearly $180,000 since declaring his candidacy in late January, exceeding Good, Moy, and Throneburg’s fundraising totals for the first quarter of 2022.
On his campaign website, Throneburg said that he was inspired to run because of a desire to serve his community and the “fears of a father,” noting his concern for his two daughters’ future in the face of a planet in crisis, spiraling national debt, and other challenges.
An “Issues” page focuses on Throneburg’s commitment to bring green jobs to Virginia, improve the accessibility and affordability of healthcare, work toward racial justice, and invest in rural America.
Throneburg’s biography notes that he grew up in a small, rural farming community where the school closed the year he graduated and many businesses have shut down. He emphasized the need to revitalize communities that have been left behind.
“As we plan for a post pandemic future, there is opportunity to build broadband and remote work environments, to bring good paying jobs in green energy manufacturing and infrastructure, and to fix our healthcare infrastructure so that every one of us has access to a doctor when we need it. Rural communities feel left behind because they have been – now is the time to reinvest in those communities,” his website states.
In social media posts, Throneburg has criticized Good for ignoring the needs of his constituents while seeking to bolster his own profile.
“Folks, I am in this race because I know that we can do better than this hate-mongering first-term Congressman whose only interest is his own reelection. I am running because I care about the health of our planet, our communities and our democracy, and because I know that our communities can thrive best with elected officials who are here to build up, not tear down,” Throneburg wrote in an April 7 Facebook post.
Good, a controversial figure who has positioned himself on his party’s far right, is favored to win the Republican nomination at the May convention. In 2020, he ousted Republican incumbent Denver Riggleman in a drive-through convention to win the nomination then defeated Democrat Cameron Webb by five points in the general election. Drawn into the race by grassroots activists who deemed the libertarian-leaning Riggleman insufficiently conservative, Good criticized the congressman for officiating the same-sex wedding of a pair of former staffers and branded himself as a “bright red Biblical and constitutional conservative.”
The decennial redistricting process reshaped Virginia’s congressional districts, moving Louisa County from the Seventh District, represented by Democrat Abigail Spanberger since 2019, to a newly drawn Fifth. Maps approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in December place the county at the Fifth’s northern edge. The Southside-anchored district stretches from Louisa, Albemarle, and western Hanover to the North Carolina border, encompassing all or part of 24 localities.
The largely rural district remains friendly terrain for Republicans. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) won the district by more than 20 points last November.
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