The edge of the cash proffer fiscal cliff

A citizens committee gathers for their third meeting on cash proffers. But by the time the committee was through discussing the pros and cons of whether builders/developers pay $18,966 was indeed appropriate, the committee had all but eliminated the current cash proffer system.

Cash proffers help offset the impact of a new home or dwelling unit on schools, libraries, parks, fire stations and road improvements.

During the early portion of the four-plus hour meeting focused on the elimination of the cash proffer. Within the first hour the group agreed that the cash proffer, as it stands, should be done away with. The committee considered a number of other options: should the cash proffer be relative to the square footage of the house; by its location or allow the cash proffer to be negotiated or offset by other proffered conditions such as sidewalks, special architectural treatments or the affordability of the home.

As the committee rounded the corner toward eliminating the cash proffer the group was unable to address the issue of how the county would make up for the loss of revenue. If the proffers were removed, from where would the lost portion of capital improvement funds come. The committee considered phasing out the cash proffer system until the Chesterfield County Supervisors could replace the lost revenue with another.

The committee, chosen by County Supervisor James J.L. Stegmaier upon the recommendation of District Supervisors, was made-up of five members: Paul Grasewicz, Clover Hill District; William Woodfin, Matoaca District; Michael Jackson, Dale District; Terri Cofer-Byrne, Midlothian District and David Anderson, Bermuda District.

Mr. Anderson told the committee that while he is the representative for Bermuda District, he does not live there, he lives in Midlothian. Anderson was the most vocal on the committee. Bermuda did not have an actual representative on the committee.

Once the committee had agreed to eliminate cash proffers in some form, the committee moved on brainstorming a way to make up the millions in revenue that the county would lose. The group considered a combination of fees and taxes, including raising vehicle registration fees, a meals tax, increased property taxes (already capped this year), and other possibilities.

“It’s my position that the board understand that you are losing a prescribed amount per year,” said David Anderson, Executive Vice President - Development & Construction at W.J. Vakos & Company. “We haven’t talked tonight about how many zoning cases are coming back anyway, because they can’t get built; that’s not a revenue stream anyway.”

But Woodfin, former director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries disagreed. He had said the committee couldn’t just eliminate proffers without giving the Supervisors a roadmap to solve the revenue problem. “We can’t just take that out [cash proffers] and stick something in there. We’re not doing this in a vacuum; this is not an Etch-a-Sketch.”

The Citizen Committee for the Study of Cash Proffers is expected to provide an independent report to the Board of Supervisors on the current cash proffer system by April 15. But the discussion on recommending how the county might replace the loss of revenue remains undecided and will require another meeting.

The citizens committee will hold its next meeting Friday, March 29.

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