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Pete Candland Budget Guidance FY17

It’s About More Than Just Not Raising Taxes

January 24, 2013

There is an old management trick we use in the private sector when it comes to budget season.  If we see a department that has grown their budget consistently over several years, we will freeze their budget for the upcoming year. 

This time-tested budget strategy forces that department to prioritize their spending and examine each position, program, and objective.  More often than not, department heads realize that they don’t need those increases they have grown accustomed to requesting each year and can actually live within their current budget.

Over the last 12 months as the Gainesville Supervisor, I have advocated the position that we should freeze the growth of our spending to our current levels.  This would not only allow families some breathing room to recover from the effects of the “Great Recession” but also allow them to adjust to the tax increases brought on by the Feds.  While this relief is the primary reason I’ve chosen to fight so hard for taxpayer relief, it is not the only reason. 

By freezing government spending to current levels, this will force our government agencies to examine their budgets and prioritize their spending.  They will have to justify each program and weigh the pros and cons of each initiative.   

As many people have figured out, I am a fiscal conservative.  But being a fiscal conservative is more than just opposing tax increases; it’s about ensuring that taxpayer money is spent efficiently on those core government responsibilities – transportation, public safety, and education.

After having met with hundreds of people this past year from government agencies to school teachers, I understand that we need to actually increase spending in certain areas.  We need to provide more funding to our schools, we need to increase the number of firefighters and police officers, we need to expand our adult detention center, we need to fund more road projects, and we need to build and complete our parks.

I’ve also realized over this past year, there are many areas within the county budget where we can reduce spending to offset these worthwhile projects.  Let me repeat this, spending increases can be offset by spending cuts.  Some would have you believe that taxes have to be raised consistently over the next five years or our county government will fall apart, but this is simply not true.

Within the coming weeks, I will offer up a new budget proposal that will look to further invest in the core responsibilities of government, while making sure our government is spending taxpayer money as efficiently as possible.  This is the Republican philosophy on government and one that I will continue to stand up for and passionately advocate.   

It’s about more than just not raising taxes; it’s about being responsible.

Gainesville District Year in Review

January 15, 2013

I recently sent out an email reviewing my first year as Gainesville District Supervisor. I’m proud of everything that has been accomplished for the Gainesville District over the past year, and you have my committment that I’ll continue to work hard and represent my constituents with honesty and integrity.

Please click here to read the Gainesville District Year in Review.

Passing of Tom Meeks

January 6, 2013

Over the holidays, the Gainesville District lost a beloved member of the community and husband of one of our Gainesville Hero award recipients.  Sadly, Tom Meeks, husband of Jacquie Meeks and friend to all who had the privilege of meeting him, passed away.

The Meeks have long been devoted to improving their community, wherever they lived.  Tom, a decorated Navy veteran and loving father of three boys, served his country with honor and distinction.  I am grateful to have known Tom, and I am thankful for his selfless service to his community and our country.  We will keep the Meeks family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

 

James Long Park Stream Restoration

January 5, 2013

See information below from the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation regarding the stream mitigation project at James Long Park that begins on January 13. 

James Long Park Stream Restoration – Construction Info

Angler Environmental, in partnership with Prince William County, will be implementing a stream restoration project at James Long Park in 2013.  The restoration will be completed in three phases.  Construction of Phase I, which is located in the northern portion of the park along the unnamed tributary to Catharpin Creek, is scheduled to commence in late January 2013.  Phase II (located downstream of Phase I) will follow in early February to late March.  Phase III, located on Catharpin Creek east of Battlefield High School, is scheduled to start in late April or early May with completion of all construction by July 2013.  Please note that this construction schedule is subject to changes due to constraints such as weather.    Replanting of forested areas will occur during late fall of 2013, which is the optimum time to plant. 

All of Phase I and II will be accessed from within the park utilizing existing open space areas.  Currently, access to Phase III is proposed from Graduation Drive through an undeveloped parcel currently owned by Prince William County.  Approval of this offsite access is currently in process.  All construction access routes and equipment/material staging areas has been located so as to minimize impacts to existing environmental features, as well as disruption of park activities.  Access routes will be kept to a maximum of 20 feet in width and in forested areas, impact to existing trees will be minimized to the greatest extent practicable.  Access and staging areas within the active areas of the park will be enclosed by orange safety fencing and/or silt fence. 

Construction activities will occur on weekdays, generally between 7am and 5pm.  Work on Saturdays will be limited as much as possible.  It is not anticipated that construction activities will impact the use of park facilities such as ball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, or their associated parking lots.  During daily construction activities, some trails may be closed to traffic but reopened after 5pm.  In some cases, trail detours may be utilized to minimize impact to trail users.  All staging and access areas will be returned to existing conditions once construction is completed for each phase of the project.

Budget Update

December 12, 2012

Yesterday’s Board of County Supervisors meeting was a very important step in the process of developing the county budget, and I want to give you a quick update of where we are in the process.

Prior to the November 20th Board meeting, Chairman Stewart and I had each put forth proposals to achieve a “Flat Tax Bill Budget,” which would keep average tax bills for homeowners in the county at the same level as last year’s tax bills.  Supervisor’s Jenkins and Principi also put forth budget proposals, but their proposals would institute double-digit percentage increases in the average tax bills at a time when I believe taxpayers need relief, not additional tax burdens.

At the December 4th Board meeting, the County Executive presented an analysis of these four budget proposals. The Gainesville District Budget Committee went to work immediately to review this response by the County Executive to the Flat Tax Bill Budget.

In less than a week, our Budget Committee worked diligently and put together a detailed point-by-point rebuttal of the County Executive’s analysis.  I distributed this document to the Board in advance of yesterday’s meeting.  Unfortunately, the Gainesville District Budget Committee found many inaccuracies and faulty assumptions with the analysis.   In fact, the analysis of my Flat Tax Bill Budget made repeated and significant errors to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, completely inaccurate county employee impacts, and then was posted to the County website, further spreading misinformation about the plan to achieve a flat tax bill throughout the County.

Unfortunately, the Board of County Supervisors voted yesterday against proposals to keep tax bills flat for the thousands of homeowners who are struggling in this economy.  Let me take this moment to thank Chairman Stewart for his courage and leadership in putting forth a flat tax proposal.  I also want to thank Supervisor Covington for his vocal support for a flat tax.  Both expressed their concerns that with the economic uncertainty facing families now would not be the right time to raise taxes.  Additionally, Supervisor Mike May offered his willingness to sit down and discuss the merits of the flat tax budget proposals with an open mind.

I also want to thank the Gainesville District Budget Committee for their many hours of work on this issue.  I can assure you that this is not the end point; it is just the beginning.  The budget won’t be finalized until April, so we have plenty of time to continue to push for a Flat Tax Bill Budget.

For full transparency, I will provide the public with the report from the Gainesville District Budget Committee that refutes the incorrect analysis, clearly demonstrates that a Flat Tax Bill can be achieved, and that we can provide core government services and protect the economic security of families in Prince William County.

Updated Gainesville Budget Committee Presentation

Letter from Gainesville Budget Committee to BOCS

Gainesville Budget Committee Report on County Staff Budget Proposal Analysis

“Openness, Transparency and Conflicts of Interest in Local Government”

December 4, 2012

Last week I was invited to participate in a panel discussion hosted by the Prince William Committee of 100 to address the topic of “Openness, Transparency and Conflicts of Interest in Local Government.”

I welcomed this opportunity because one of my main goals as a Supervisor has been to do all I can to restore and enhance the trust the people of Prince William County have in their elected officials.

Without that trust and confidence, the whole process of governing becomes much more difficult and far more muddied.

Whether we like it or not, there is a perception that exists in the minds of a significant number of citizens in the County that the Board is collectively “in the pocket” of their donors.

There are also perceptions of a so-called “good old boy network,” where favored programs and individuals have an upper hand in receiving taxpayer funds.  These questions are not unique to Prince William County, but that real concern out there shouldn’t be ignored.

In our democracy, there is absolutely nothing improper or wrong about politicians receiving campaign contributions or serving their communities on worthy non-profit boards.  But it all comes down to trust in that politician, and public disclosure of contributions and potential conflicts of interest help to restore the public trust.

This is why I implemented a transparency initiative for my constituents and all people within Prince William County.  I have committed that I will post on my website before each meeting, any contributions that have been received by applicants who have business before the Board.  In general, I believe people are more trusting of politicians if they feel a politician isn’t trying to hide something.

When I started working on the plan to eliminate the discretionary funds in District Offices – an effort that my friend and colleague Supervisor May was a very early supporter of and who was critical in helping get the necessary support for the resolution – I discovered a real concern by citizens all over Prince William County that certain programs and organizations received special priority based on relationship between them and individual Board members, or members of their family.

Whether it was true or not, the perception was still there.

To me, the solution comes down to disclosure of those relationships in a timely way.

My colleague Supervisor May participated on the panel as well, and I know that he agrees completely on that concept, and I believe it is only in the method of that disclosure that we have a difference of opinion on.

Mike made the persuasive point during the discussion of my motion with the Board that he personally made repeated disclosures about his relationships with contributors or groups seeking funding, and he believed the intent of my motion was already being met.  In short, Mike argued we simply did not need to duplicate what was already being done.

In my judgment, Mike May is one of the most decent, honorable, and ethical people I have worked with in county government.  I have had the opportunity to watch him closely in the way he conducts himself in his public life, and I can tell you he is a man of the highest character.

I think that is also generally true of the other members of the Board of Supervisors.

But the quality of character of the current Board members does not guarantee mistakes will be avoided in the future, nor does it assure that the intent to be transparent will be matched with action when a conflict needs to be disclosed.

My motion on conflicts of interest was not intended to be punitive to the Board in any way, but it was designed solely to protect the public.  To be clear, my transparency initiative is intended for the benefit of the people, not the convenience of the politicians.  It was intended both for today and into the future.

My conflict of interest motion spoke directly to the preservation of the public trust in their elected leaders.

There are two specific elements to most conflict of interest policies governing public officials:

  • Banning conduct by public officials when they use their office to exploit a relationship for personal benefit.
  • Avoiding even the appearance of a conflict that would erode the trust of the public.

The truth is, most conflicts of interest are difficult to define.  We think we know it when we see it, but the facts and circumstances in most cases create more questions than answers about whether a law or standard is being violated.

The basis for my motion was, however, that most conflicts fall into a gray area where ethics and public perception are far more relevant than statutes or precedents.

And if a public official should ever find themselves in this gray area of disclosure and ethics, I believe that the best policy if full transparency.

As the old political saying goes: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

With more transparency and greater disclosure by the Board of County Supervisors, we can restore the trust of the people in our local elected officials.

The issue here is not a matter of accusations or judging the merits of any particular policy proposal.  My transparency initiative seeks only to provide sunlight on the local political process to allow the public to make their own fully-informed decisions.

Our constituents have a right to an open an honest government, and we, as elected officials, have a duty to conduct the work of the people in the most transparent manner possible, above all reproach.

A timely and specific disclosure of any potential conflict by a member of the Board of County Supervisors will satisfy this standard because it allows the voters to decide whether an individual Board Member may be unduly influenced by the relationship he or she may have with an applicant for Board action.

I believe that a disclosure of any campaign contributions from an applicant seeking Board action the week before any formal vote on that application would also instill a needed layer of trust in the Board’s action.

In the end, my motion failed to even be considered by the Board for a lack of a second.  The Board did agree to post the annual financial disclosure statements each Board member is required to file on the County website that was a part of my conflicts of interest motion.

More work needs to be done, and I intend to continue to work with my colleagues to convince them that this issue needs to be addressed responsibly and the Board needs to adopt a formal conflict of interest policy.  I will work hard to make that happen.

The FY 2014 Budget: A Flat Tax Bill Budget Is Within Reach

November 26, 2012

The effects of the Great Recession have wreaked havoc on family budgets over the past four years, and I personally believe that the County needs to adjust its spending the way families have had to sacrifice during this very difficult economic period.

A Flat Tax Bill Budget for Prince William County in FY 2014 is a good step to help provide badly needed relief.  In the longer term, what Prince William County needs most is to maintain spending restraint, structural changes in the way we fund our schools, and a sound economic jobs growth policy to allow residents to work here in Prince William County with jobs that are competitive with surrounding counties.

The November 20, 2012 BOCS meeting was ground-breaking in two very significant ways for the taxpayers in the Gainesville District, and for every County resident.

First, the days of the County staff presenting a budget and a tax assessment rate in February and March, leaving precious little time to make any changes, are clearly over.  The Board is now engaging the discussion about both the tax rate and the trajectory of County spending in what I believe is a very positive change both in terms of timing for the discussions and the willingness to examine where and why we are spending taxpayer funds.

Second, both Chairman Stewart and I made a strong case for a Flat Tax Bill Budget in FY 2014.  To accomplish that, the tax rate would be reduced from $1.209 to $1.174 so that the average tax bill will remain the same as last year.  The hidden number we have not yet seen – and will not until February – is what the estimated appreciation rate will be on the house values of taxpayers.   My personal goal will be to assure that the appreciation rate is added into the calculation for maintaining a Flat Tax Bill for every homeowner.

While Chairman Stewart and I agreed on the end goal of a Flat Tax Bill Budget, we did approach it a little differently.  While Chairman Stewart took bold action and looked to specific program cuts to achieve the $9 million in savings needed to get to a Flat Tax Bill, my approach looked at ways to find even deeper cuts in County spending so that we can maintain our present funding commitment to the schools so they will not have to cut $12 million in this upcoming fiscal year.

I have posted my presentation on the front page of this website (Click here for this webpage:  http://91a.cbb.myftpupload.com/2012/11/19/fy-2014-budget-recommendations-letter-to-the-board-of-county-supervisors/ ), so I hope you will take the time to review it.

In addition to reducing our overall spending, I personally believe we need to make some basic fundamental reforms to the way we spend taxpayer funds so that we can reduce the footprint of government in the lives of Prince William County families.

On the County spending side, I have proposed that we completely reform the Carry-Over Budget process that overestimates Agency budgets in the approved budget, and then spends the excess money outside of the normal budget process.  In the past three years, the average unspent Agency funds used for this Carry-Over budget are more than $28 million a year.

Another major reform that I believe we need to explore is in the way we fund our schools.  In FY 2015, I am proposing that we end the Revenue Sharing Agreement with the schools and require the School Board to propose their actual budget to the BOCS for approval.  While the School Board would continue to be the primary decision makers on the school budget, I believe that the process needs an additional layer of accountability and will allow parents and teachers to have a greater role in having input into that budget.  It also is the same school funding procedure used by every other surrounding County.

As I have talked with many parents in the Gainesville District, they share the same concerns that my wife Robyn and I have with our schools.  First, I think we need to get serious about reducing classroom sizes.  We are asking far too much of our classroom teachers when we put too many kids in the classroom.  Second, I believe we have to ensure that we’re paying a fair and competitive salary to classroom teachers so we can keep them.  Finally, we have to maintain our commitment to fund new school enrollment growth.

Over the past few months, the Gainesville District has also distinguished itself with a very strong Budget Committee who has helped me work on the Flat Tax Bill Budget.  This committee is unmatched in the county with the diversity of skills, talents, and geographic location of members.  My Budget Committee has put in literally thousands of hours in identifying ways to make the Flat Tax Bill Budget work for FY 2014.  We are all in the debt of these terrific volunteers.

I plan to hold a Town Hall Meeting on the FY 2014 Budget and one on the School Funding Reforms early next year, and that will provide a valuable opportunity for us to talk directly about these ideas.  I welcome your input on those proposals.

 

Supervisor Candland’s Letter to the Prince William County Electoral Board Chairman

November 8, 2012

November 8, 2012

Keith A. Scarborough, Chairman
Prince William County Electoral Board
Office of Voter Registration and Elections
9250 Lee Avenue, Suite 1
Manassas, VA 20110

Dear Mr. Scarborough:

I am writing on behalf of the thousands of citizens in the Gainesville Magisterial District in Prince William County who were subjected to what I believe were unnecessarily long wait times to exercise their Constitutional right to cast a vote for the candidates and ballot initiatives they chose to support.  The problem was particularly acute in the Alvey and Battlefield precincts.

It is my opinion that the poll workers staffing the precinct voting locations were performing to the best of their abilities in dealing with an overwhelming volume of voters who had to endure, in many cases, waits more than three hours long.  In some of the precincts, that wait time was as long as one and a half to two hours.  It was not the capabilities or the commitment of the poll workers that is in question, but rather it appears to be issues related to planning and equipment resources that are the root of the problem.  In precincts where significant numbers of older voters were trying to vote, many of whom had various physical conditions making these long waits virtually impossible, they were effectively denied their right to vote because they could not physically tolerate the long lines to get to the voting booth.

We have made a commitment on a federal and state level to reduce barriers that potentially influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote.  Long lines at polling locations constitute just as high a hurdle to voting as other purported barriers that are under strong attack in some states.  Our collective goal should be to make it as efficient as possible for citizens to exercise the right they have to vote for those who will lead them.

At a minimum, we should look at the option of splitting some of the high-volume voting precincts for future elections.  Allocation of more voting machines and the supporting voter registration computers and personnel in high volume precincts would also go a long way to alleviate the problem of long lines and long waits to cast a vote.

As I understand it, there is an informal moratorium put in place by the Virginia State Board of Elections restricting purchases of new voting machines using the existing touch-screen technology for Prince William County. In my judgment, this issue needs to be resolved quickly to address the continuing problem with unnecessarily long lines at voting precincts.

I have also heard reports that similar problems were experienced at other polling locations around the County, and that certainly supports the argument that a new policy for future elections be developed that will directly attack this problem.  At the end of the day, we need to ensure that all citizens can cast their votes without barriers that discourage participation and ultimately make it impossible for them to do so.

That new policy should include a plan to educate voters at polling locations, and the staff who work those precincts, that allow for elderly and voters with medical conditions to know they can go to the front of the line and cast a vote.  The policies should also look at providing the equipment and staff necessary to increase the efficiency of the process.   By improving the process, we respect the fundamental rights that make our democracy the shining light of the world.

I am available to meet at your earliest convenience to discuss these issues in more detail.

Best regards,

Pete Candland

Agency Turnback Analysis

October 30, 2012

Below is a spreadsheet outlining the agency savings, also called “turnbacks,” for the last five years of the budget.  During the summer carryover budget process, these funds are reallocated towards other needs of county government.  However, as a part of our county budget deliberations coming up soon, I requested this spreadsheet so that my Budget Committee and I could have a better picture of how the county uses it’s allocated funding.

I want to thank the county staff for their efforts to compile and provide this information.  I will be reviewing this data along with my Budget Committee, and I found it important that the taxpayers of Prince William County also have this information.

General Fund Turnback by Agency

 

Letter to Ms. Peacor Requesting Budget Information

October 26, 2012

UPDATE:

County staff has replied and provided the information mentioned below regarding agency turnbacks for the last five years.

 

The Gainesville District Budget Committee and myself have been working diligently to propose a “flat tax bill” budget for Prince William County.  In our efforts, we have requested information from county staff regarding carryover and agency savings.  Unfortunately, our requests for information from county staff have been repeatedly delayed.

Attached is a letter that I sent to the County Executive again asking that the information be sent that we need to make informed budget proposals.

Letter to Ms. Peacor 102612