Though the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) proposed for fiscal 2012-2016 is slightly bigger than the program adopted last year, it still focuses on projects with minimal impacts on county operating costs.
“With some signs of improvement in the economy, such as growth in the sales tax and new car registrations, … but countered with continued softening in real property values, this plan does strike a very measured pace of progress,” Budget and Management Director Allan Carmody told the Board of Supervisors at its Jan. 26 meeting.
Though minor improvements in CIP revenue streams are projected over the life of the five-year plan, the plan calls for keeping the debt service in the next few years “in line with what is currently budgeted,” he said. The construction of new facilities is proposed for the plan’s later years, he said.
The proposed CIP for fiscal 2012-2016, including general county, school and utilities projects, totals $462.7 million, which is up slightly from the $448 million plan approved last year for fiscal 2011-2015, he said. General county projects represent $161.7 million of the plan.
In fiscal 2012, there is an emphasis on renovations and major maintenance, Carmody said. According to his presentation, $19.5 million is planned for general county projects in fiscal 2012, including $7.1 million for renovations and major maintenance.
The county, without schools and utilities facilities, has about $220 million in infrastructure in place, Carmody said. With schools, the value of the county’s infrastructure is in the neighborhood of $1 billion. Given the dollars it takes to bring those facilities online, it’s critical to maintain them and prolong their useful life, he said.
Later in the plan, “you do start to see more funding for new construction,” he said. Also, the replacement of the public safety radio system will be a significant project with funding in multiple years; for example, more than $20 million is set aside in fiscal 2015 and again in fiscal 2016 to help fund the project. The existing system was installed in the 1999 to 2000 timeframe, he said.
“It’s been very clearly stated by the fire chief as a priority of the need to adequately continue funding replacement apparatus,” Carmody said. Some progress has been made in the last two years, and it should continue in fiscal 2012, as $1.5 million is allocated for replacement apparatus.
Also, the CIP includes $1.5 million for future fire station sites, about $500,000 for renovations at the animal shelter and about $700,000 for the replacement of mobile public safety computers, according to his presentation.
For parks and recreation, the CIP includes $2.2 million for major renovations and improvements, about $130,000 for Civil War parks, about $300,000 for senior centers and about $750,000, including grant funds, for the Swift Creek Conservation Area, he said.
Though substantial progress has been made on projects included in the 2004 bond referendum, Carmody said, about $21.4 million in bonds, including $14.6 million for library projects, remain unsold. Forecasted revenue streams have impacted the county’s ability to pay for the operating costs of new facilities, he said, “which is why the Harrowgate fire station and Reams Gordon library haven’t been built.”
Given that reality, $5.2 million in public safety funds from the bond referendum has been reallocated for land acquisitions for new stations, replacement apparatus, the public safety training center and the extension of Newbys Bridge Road, he said.
Design of the proposed arts center in Chester, funding for which is part of the $14.6 million in remaining library funds, is now set for 2016, Carmody said.
“We have not reallocated the bonds,” he said. “We’d be glad to talk about the timeframe for which to allocate or move forward on the arts center, depending on being able to reach an agreement on a funding plan for the operating costs.”
The staff will be seeking public input on the proposal at constituent meetings, he said, and a public hearing will take place on March 23.
Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland asked about the status of a backup generator for L.C. Bird High School so the school could be used as a shelter. Carmody said he thought the generator was “sitting in year three or four” of the plan, as its installation would require some major electrical upgrades at the school.