Board of Supervisors Refocus Citizens Budget Review Committee (CBRC) mission
On June 28th, the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 (Supervisor McLaughlin not present) to direct the Citizens Budget Review Committee (CBRC) to look at each County Department’s federal and state mandates and have each department justify any personnel or funding outside of those mandates. This directive seemed to imply reporting whether a County Department was understaffed or under resourced as well. The Board also directed the CBRC to review neighboring localities to see how Spotsylvania compared to them.
This new directive was developed by Supervisor Yakabouski after several months of criticism leveled on the CBRC. Mr. Yakabouski stated that after consulting with current and former CBRC members, he gained a renewed appreciation for the massive task of looking at the entire budget. The turnover rate of the CBRC volunteers was also stated as playing a factor due to the amount of time it took to get new members acclimated to the process. Mr. Yakabouski should be applauded for his willingness to continue to review and analyze a topic that he previously seemed to be decided on. On the other hand, in this the last chance for the CBRC to prove its worth?
At the May 10, 2016 Board of Supervisors meeting, the CBRC was referred to as an “inactive committee” with three vacancies (Supervisors Benton, McLaughlin, and Ross). In June and July, Mr. Benton, Mr. McLaughlin, and Mr. Ross filled their vacancies.
The CBRC’s second report in 2017 to the Board of Supervisors, highlighted what continues to be a contentious issue: out-of-county students using Spotsylvania schools as a benefit for their parent teaching in Spotsylvania.
In April 2017, Mr. Yakabouski nominated teacher and Spotsylvania Education Association member Dawn Napper to the CBRC, which sparked a Board of Supervisors discussion over whether County employees should be permitted to serve on the CBRC. The problem with this objection was the Board in February unanimously approved Sheriff Department employee Tim Bryner to serve on the CBRC. Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Ross who have traditionally been more hands-on investigators of Spotsylvania School spending and efficiencies objected to Ms. Napper’s appointment as conflicting with the CBRC’s original intent of not having County employees participate. Ultimately, Ms. Napper was approved on a 4-3 vote (Supervisors Benton, McLaughlin, and Ross) on April 25, 2017.
On September 26, 2017, Spotsylvania resident Lynne Slater spoke during the Board of Supervisors public comment period about witnessing CBRC members acting uncivil toward each other at the September 18, 2017 meeting. In response to the statement, Mr. McLaughlin directed the County Administrator to look into televising the CBRC meetings. Since then televising the CBRC meetings has cost the County $6,950, with no notable recommendations presented to the Board of Supervisors.
At the October 2017 CBRC meeting, several CBRC members expressed concern over the $695.00 cost of televising each meeting. Especially when the CBRC was designed to find efficiencies and reduce County costs, not increase them. The $695 per meeting cost was provided by County Finance Department Director Mary Sorrell.
The CBRC has the potential to cost the County up to $11,000 per year just in televised costs alone, according to Finance Director Sorrell. These meetings are televised as history shows, not to increase transparency as Supervisor McLaughlin has claimed, but in direct response to accusations of incivility at their meetings. Of note, there has been some CBRC membership changeover since September 2017. Click here for the current membership list.
While we spend $695.00 to televise each CBRC meeting, we do not in the spirit of transparency, televise the County Transportation Committee meetings. Nor has any meeting minutes been uploaded to the County website since September 14, 2017 (as of July 5, 2018). There are currently four Supervisors, and one School Board member serving on the Transportation committee that reviews and dictates transportation project recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, or themselves. Since transportation remains a top County priority with 5 elected officials serving on this advisory committee, in the spirit of transparency it would seem more appropriate to televise these meetings, since over half the Board of Supervisors are members.
The CBRC provides meeting minutes regularly and televising these meetings has induced greater civility but has likely also stifled a free flow of ideas and potentially serves as a barrier for those citizens that do not wish to be filmed at a volunteer meetings. The CBRC meetings are always open to the public and if members are acting uncivil, Board members should remove them, not default to televising meetings at an unnecessary expense.
Over the last 1.5 years, the CBRC has gone quickly from an inactive committee, to a committee that notable figures suddenly want to serve on. Why is that? What has changed? The CBRC at quick glance includes a Sheriff Department employee, Planning Department employee, School employee, a former School Board member, a current Planning Commissioner, and a spouse of a current School Board member.
Regardless, of what side you fall on politically, the Supervisors have seemingly lost the purpose of the CBRC. The CBRC at times, has come off as an investigatory body with unlimited authority to summons Department Heads before them for answers. At other times, the CBRC comes off as a committee receiving direction from Board members to target specific areas due to the way the Board has recently split along party lines on CBRC presentations.
The new CBRC directive should limit its scope and provide needed structure to focus its efforts. Last and most importantly, the individuals volunteering their time are citizens dedicated to serving our community, but judging the CBRC objectively as a unit, it has struggled in the past few years to effectively serve the County. The CBRC now has a renewed opportunity to justify the level of expenditures to operate by delivering on its Charter’s promise. Time will tell if it is up the challenge…
- Click here to review County information about the CBRC.
- Click here to review previous televised CBRC meetings.