NEW KENT – Although New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway is proposing the county spend $12,679,034 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, there is one major project missing from the list: a new public safety radio system.
“This covers fire, the sheriff’s office and the schools. The radios are going in all the school buses, too,” said New Kent Planning Commission Chairman Jack Chalmers. “This is a very important safety feature, in my opinion, that the county absolutely has to have.”
“Our system is so antiquated now that the fire and sheriff’s department get into parts in the county where they can’t even communicate back with home base. We need to address this issue.”
Hathaway had originally proposed the $5.9 million public safety radio system project, mostly funded by grant money, which would upgrade the system.
According to Hathaway, the county received a $1.6 million grant, leaving the county to cover the remaining $4.3 million, something that they are not financially able to do.
“With our CIP projects, not only do we identify needs, but we also have to identify funding, and right now that is the problem with this particular project. There is no funding identified,” he said.
If the county got a 10-year loan for the $4.3 million radio project, the Principal and Interest (P&I) would total approximately $517,038, which would most likely result in a "minor tax increase" for FY16, Hathaway said last month.
Despite Chalmer’s insistence that “public safety should be number one on that list,” the Planning Commission voted unanimously to forward the proposed FY15 CIP to the Board of Supervisors with a favorable recommendation.
If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the county would take on $5 million in new debt but see no tax increases.
The total $8.5 million historic high school project, which would turn the 1930s and 1950s school building into a new elementary school, is partly funded in cash.
Last year, Supervisors adopted a 4-cent increase in real estate taxes, half of which was set aside for the debt service on the remaining $5 million for the project.
Assuming the county enters into a 20-year loan on the $5 million, the annual P&I would cost $351,805, which would be covered by half of the FY14 tax increase.
"The P&I would be covered by the FY2014 approved increases, so we're not anticipating any tax increases in FY 2015," Hathaway said in a phone interview last month.
Although the School Board has predicted that the renovated elementary school could cost taxpayers an additional $1.3 million in yearly operational costs, the school is expected to open in fall 2015, and would not impact the FY2015 budget, Hathaway said.
Aside from the historic school project, Hathaway is proposing that the county fund financial software, park development, fire engines, vehicle replacements, airport taxiway repair, and a 100-foot ladder fire truck.
Hathaway proposes paying for the projects by using $3.46 million in cash reserves and $2.6 million in federal and state grants.
The proposed FY15-19 CIP also reflects 18 long-term projects including:
• $6.82 million in renovations to New Kent Elementary School
•$2.36 million in technology that would equip each high school student with a Chromebook and establish a building-wide wireless access.
•$2.16 million in school bus replacements (on a 15-year cycle).
Hathaway is also proposing $1.05 million for Public Utility projects, which are self-funded.
The Board of Supervisors will most likely review the FY15 CIP at its next meeting on Thursday, April 10 at 6 p.m. in the county administration building.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.