What do you see as opportunities to reduce the Chesterfield County budget in light of today’s economic climate?
MARK FAUSZ - BERMUDA
I have run my campaign on a very tight budget, about a $10,000 compared with a budget of over $30,000 in the coffers of my opponent. I have always found ways to be frugal with the budget of the businesses I have owned over the years through good times and bad. In tough times I have always found ways to do more with less.
That’s the way I see the county budget. We can do a lot more with a tight budget. The only time we should reduce our budget is if our current revenue sources shrink further than they have already. I don’t think there is any way to go beyond the cuts that have been forced on us by the current economy.
I do believe there are savings to be made, and any savings should be plugged into our schools, police and fire departments so we can retain our status of having the best schools and public safety in the region.
I have been preaching through this campaign that maintaining good schools and public safety will grow business, attract business and create jobs, which will in turn bring more revenue to the county so we can continue the cycle to prosperity.
We need someone who represents all citizens and not just an elite few to bring our community together to solve the problems we face during this economy. We don’t need to shrink or reduce our budget, we need to find ways to do more with less.
DOROTHY JAECKLE - BERMUDA
Reductions to the Chesterfield County budget have been the norm for the last three years as we faced the challenges of the economic downturn that began in 2008. We have used wage and hiring freezes, layoffs and a close examination of all expenditures to balance our budget without raising taxes. To help the Board of Supervisors make better budget decisions, I supported the establishment of a Citizens Budget Advisory Committee. This committee has worked with administrative staff to develop cost evaluation systems for all county departments where the Board has financial control. I have supported the Board of Supervisor’s efforts to have the School Board do the same.
Chesterfield County’s revenues are mainly dependent upon residential real estate assessments. To correct this situation, I have encouraged the county to seek road improvements that spur economic activity. Further, I have initiated projects with other Board members endorsed by the full Board that promote historical and sports tourism as well as other commercial activity.
We always have more needs than money for areas that are foremost on most citizens minds – schools, roads and public safety. County government, however, funds additional essential services such as parks and recreation, libraries, health and social services, and an efficient court system. With our balanced budget, when you provide more money for one need, other crucial departments can suffer. For that reason, it is very important that we continue to work with staff and the Citizens Budget Advisory to identify nonessential programs and evaluate the cost/benefit of all expenditures.
JAMES "JIM" HOLLAND - DALE
In light of today’s economic climate, my focus will be on continuous improvement in all Chesterfield County operations. I will continue to support and encourage the county’s Cost Savings and Efficiency Team as we have done over the past four years.
Some opportunities I see to reduce Chesterfield County’s budget are:
In summary, I believe that budget reductions should not impact front-line programs or services to citizens.
CLIFF BICKFORD - DALE
Real estate values will most likely continue to fall to some degree over the next 12 to 18 months which would result in an operating budget that will remain unchanged. Considering the reductions in the school budget over the past 24 months and the fact that federal stimulus money will no longer be available going forward, it would appear that additional cuts in education are not possible in the near term. Citizens have also been clear in their message that there should be no budget cuts in the area of public safety for fire, police, and other emergency services leaving a limited number of areas where significant budget reductions can be realized over the next year.
MARLEEN DURFEE - MATOACA
The economic downturn that started in the fall of 2008 has had a significant impact on the finances of the county. State funding has been greatly reduced and personal property tax revenue has been substantially lower as well. Throughout this period, the Board was faced with cutting county expenditures by $91.8 million.
The Board’s foremost consideration is to preserve our county’s rare Triple-A rating. Having this designation gives us the lowest borrowing rates possible, and affords us financial flexibility enjoyed by only a few other municipalities in the country.
Four years ago, when four out of five newly elected Board of Supervisors took office, we established stronger fiscal responsibility and accountability in the county as a priority. Concurrently, we established a citizen budget advisory committee to assist the Board and County Administration in analyzing the budget and recommending areas where money could be saved. The combined effort lead to the Board finding additional savings of ~$14 million through consolidations and new efficiencies.
One area I continue to see as an opportunity for savings is to use a data driven decision approach on a countywide basis to ensure we are making the most effective financial choices at all times.
Citizen input will remain very important as we strive for new ways to save money and to address Chesterfield’s budgetary needs going forward.
STEVE ELSWICK - MATOACA
Until I have an opportunity to evaluate county programs versus revenues I cannot honestly answer this question. In this new economy we must take every opportunity to reinvent government and evaluate how we do deliver services to our citizens.
I will take the bold steps necessary to do this.