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Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

New voter ID law now in effect

As of July 1, Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of photo identification...

Case moves forward in KG double shooting and murder

A joint preliminary hearing in King George Circuit Court last week resulted in charges of murder, at...

S&P upgrades King George’s financial ratings to ‘AA+’

The King George Board of Supervisors got good news last week from Travis Quesenberry, county adminis...

County Landfill gets VEEP Award

County Landfill gets VEEP Award

At a small ceremony Monday, June 23, Thomas Cue of Waste Management and his managerial staff receive...

Some School meal prices set to rise

The King George School Board approved a few small increases earlier this month for some meals and as...

School Board adjusts budget to retain 2-percent raises across the board

This week the King George School Board made adjustments to its 2014-15 budget to go forward with 2-p...

 Last week when the July 9, 2014 Journal was sent to be printed, the printer's press broke and we had problems with the printed version of the 7-9-14 paper.

However, the press was fixed, and our July 16, 2014 editions are out as usual.

Remember, you can subscribe for just $24 per year by calling 540-775-2024 or signing up online here.

 

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Thinking of running for local office?

Here’s candidate information for this fall’s election

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter


If you are thinking of seeking a position in public service, it’s not too early to start gathering 125 signatures on the required petitions now.

Running for local office is not as difficult as many think. 

Read more: Thinking of running for local office?

County real estate reassessments underway

Downward trend in assessments reflect lower home sale prices

The National Association of Realtors last week reported a huge drop in prices on existing homes.  
The trend of falling home values is beginning to be reflected in King George.  
That trend could continue as the financial crisis grows and the recession deepens.
According to figures released on December 23, the national median existing-home price for all housing types was $181,300 in November.  
That was down 13.2 percent from November 2007 when the median was $208,800.
Regionally, in the South, existing-home sales dropped 10.9 percent to an annual pace of 1.64 million in November, and are 17.6 percent below a year ago.
The median price in the South was $154,500, which is 10.6 percent lower than November 2007.
The Code of Virginia requires each locality to periodically perform a general reassessment to determine each property’s fair market value and its equalization in value to similar properties.  
The effective date of the reassessment is January 1, 2010.  The last general reassessment was effective January 1, 2006.
Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal Company, LLC is currently conducting an assessment for the county that will go into effect a year from now.  
Property assessment is a year-long process.  Blue Ridge began the current process in October and will continue it through 2009.  
The assessments will be reflected in the values adopted a year from now, in January 2010 for tax rates and collections in June & December 2010.  
The first step is site visits by assessors.  Over the course of the next year, site visits will eventually take assessors to all improved property in the county.  
Those visits will enable them to update the value of all property in King George.  
But if home prices keep falling over the course of the next year, those declines will be reflected in the updated values assigned by the assessors.
Blue Ridge reps have said the market on homes will be monitored on a monthly basis through the end of the assessment process to make further adjustments to county property values as necessary before sending the change of assessment notices next fall.
Blue Ridge project manager and appraiser Mike Didawick recently reported to the Board of Supervisors.  
Didawick noted that the best way to understand the current real estate market is to view properties that have recently sold.
He explained that the value of a home is determined by analyzing recent sales of similar homes, called “comparables.”
Some of the characteristics used to determine similarity include comparing square footage, number of stories, exterior finish, basements/finished basements, number of bathrooms, heating/cooling system, fireplaces, and attached/detached garages.
As with all real estate, Didawick said that location is of primary concern when assessing the value of property.  
Location features can either enhance or detract from the value of the property.
Location features that enhance value include water frontage, pleasing views or adjoining golf courses. Features that detract from value include location in a flood zone, proximity to a landfill and adjoining a junkyard
~ EFFECT OF FALLING HOME PRICES     With falling home prices, homeowners with an inflated mortgage balance and a need to refinance due to an upwardly adjusting interest rate could be in a bind.  
Also, those wishing to sell their houses may be facing a loss if they owe more on their mortgage than current sale prices indicate they can get.
But those who intend to stay in their homes will be little-effected by falling home prices, including the strong possibility of a lower real estate assessment that could be enacted a year from now.
That’s because when the reassessment process is over a year from now in King George, the Board of Supervisors will be presented with a calculated equalized tax rate.
If the reassessment results in lower property values, the calculated equalized tax rate will be higher than the existing tax rate.

By Phyllis Cook, Staff Reporter



 

No annual raises in January for county employees

King George making budget cuts

The King George Board of Supervisors last week directed county staff to hold off on implementing annual pay-for-performance raises that were scheduled to go into effect next month.  
The January 2009 raises could be implemented later this fiscal year, but it is doubtful.  
That’s because like most other localities across the state, King George is making cuts and postponing expenditures in the current fiscal year budget due to lower revenues.
Deputy County Administrator/Director of Finance Donita Harper told Supervisors she was currently projecting a year-end deficit on June 30 of $1,394,125.  
~ TAX REVENUE DOWN    That’s because revenue collections are down in all areas, including taxes from real estate, personal property and recordation.  In addition, interest income is down, along with fees from building and other permits.  
Also, budgeted state revenue has been cut that had been expected from the state Compensation Board to go toward salaries for employees in Constitutional offices.
Year-to-date comparisons from this year to last year indicate that the proceeds from the above revenues are 15 percent lower, which translates to $666K less.
Postponing the raises for county employees will hold off on spending about $55,000, since the current year budget had held salary increases to a pot of money to average 2 percent for the mid-year increases.
Supervisors also directed that the additional options presented by Harper to reduce the projected year end $1.4M deficit be implemented immediately.  
Those include the following targets:  
~ Hiring freeze for all full and part-time position vacancies – anticipated to save about $100,000.
~ Overtime freeze, except for emergencies, unless approved by the County Administrator – anticipated to save about $100,000.
~ 3 percent budgeted spending reductions by county agencies and departments – anticipated to save about $600,000.
~ 3 percent budgeted spending reductions by School Board and Smoot Library - anticipated to save about $400,000.
~ All purchases going forward are to be based on operational necessity, with requisitions to be reviewed by the County Administrator/Deputy – anticipated to save about $200,000
Supervisor Joe Grzeika said, “I think it’s the prudent thing to do is tell all departments to make cuts.”
Grzeika also said, “I think everyone is going to have to share in the pain.  There are no easy answers.”
Supervisor Dale Sisson noted that where services had been ramped up in previous years, they were ripe for cuts to be taken, noting a big decrease in building permits.  
That decrease results in fewer inspections and less staff time for processing applications.   
But County Administrator Travis Quesenberry said that he was preparing a plan to indicate how to use Community Development staff that would “show how we can save the county money.”
Supervisor Jim Howard also suggested that it was also time to again look at combining functions with the School Board.  That could include building maintenance, custodial, and grass-cutting and landscaping, among others.
In other action at the same meeting, Supervisors voted to approve a request from the School Board and provide an additional appropriation of $125K.  The funding is a portion of what was appropriated by the county last fiscal year, but left unspent by the School Board.
Superintendent Candace Brown told Supervisors the money would be spent on specific items, including $50K for band uniforms, $50K for library books and $25K for repair of the metal roof at King George Elementary School.  
ALSO AT THE DECEMBER 16, 2008 MEETING:  
o     REQUEST FROM TRAIL REP    David Jones, representing the Friends of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail requested the Board of Supervisors to include the trail in the county’s Comprehensive Plan with the proviso that no local funds be used for it.
Jones said the trail is included in the state’s Virginia Outdoor Plan, but added that the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation will not act to acquire the trail until the county Board gives its approval.
Jones stated, “Our contacts at DCR will act to acquire the trail as a state-owned linear park as soon as we have your approval.” 

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter



 

Ralph Bunche group recommends School Board turn property over to county

No action yet by School Board

As its final official action last week, a Ralph Bunche ad hoc advisory committee recommended that the School Board give the deed of the former school to the Board of Supervisors.
That recommendation came with the stipulation that whatever its future uses, the building retain the name of Ralph Bunche.
The committee report was provided to the two elected boards at a meeting on December 16.
In spring 2006, the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association was successful in getting the former school building listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register due to its role in the civil rights era regarding its establishment to provide “separate but equal” education, which was the law of the land at the time.
Ralph Bunche was named for a brilliant and celebrated African-American educator, diplomat and Nobel Prize winner.  He died in 1971.
The former Ralph Bunche school building is located on 33.873 acres on the east side of US 301, north of the Circle intersection at Route 205.  
The Ralph Bunche High School for Negro Pupils was established in 1949 to provide “separate but equal” education to the county’s Negro students.  
It remained as such until 1968 when the existing King George High School was opened.  
At that time, all high school students in King George began attending the same school.   
Since 1968, Ralph Bunche has been put to several uses, including for some elementary school classes for a time.  
Then, for several years, it housed the School Board administrative offices.  In 1994, many of the School Board offices were shifted to the Revercomb building, with a few remaining at Ralph Bunche.
During that time, potential plans for use of the building and site were being considered.  For a time, the School Board listed the building for demolition in the county’s capital plan.
In the meantime, the building was also used for Rappahannock Community College classes in the evenings, to house an alternative high school education program, and subsequently for pre-school special education classes.
Interest in the fate of the building by King George residents swelled in the spring and summer of 1998.  
That’s when it became known that the King George school administration planned to vacate the Ralph Bunche building and also move out of the Revercomb Building to reunite all the School Board offices in the two-story wing of old King George Elementary School, where it remains today.
Since 1998, Ralph Bunche has been little used by the division except for storage.  The main use of the building is currently by the Sheriff’s Department.
Last week, the committee asked the two boards to adopt a joint resolution it submitted.  
The committee said it wanted the School Board to declare the property surplus and of no immediate educational value to the division and turn it over to the county.
The School Board praised the committee, but took no action.  
The committee said that under the county’s ownership, the building and grounds could be put to several possible uses, including museum, extension of the Virginia Civil Rights Trail, job training, adult education center, cultural arts center, technology center, social/religious/civic, events area, tutoring/literacy training center for children, early education center, alternative school for students requiring different styles of instruction, genealogy center, public park with trails, and baseball fields/basketball courts.
Supervisor Jim Howard noted that many of the uses had been suggested 10 years ago.
The portion of the proposed resolution pertaining to the Board of Supervisors asked them to:  
~ Acknowledge and commemorate the unique resource to the county
~ Commit to enact an ordinance encompassing the Ralph Bunche School building as a King George Historic Property to include forever using the name of Ralph Bunche in the title of the building
~ Commit to maintain the building services and physical integrity until such time it is put to use
~ Commit to preserve a portion of the building for special recognition of the King George African American community, particularly the alumni of the school
~ Commit to put the building and property to future activities.
The committee also provided information about a walk-through of the building by an architectural firm over the summer which indicated that while the building is basically structurally sound, all mechanical and electrical workings would need to be replaced along with other needed repairs to the building.  
The committee told the Board that it could be possible to recoup a portion of renovation costs by the use of historic tax credits.
Chairman Cedell Brooks, Jr., and the other members of the Board thanked the committee.  
Brooks also stated, “The committee’s job is done.  You’ve done what you are supposed to do and done it well.”
In addition to Brooks, the other committee members were Supervisor James Mullen, School Board members Lynn Pardee and Renee Parker, Ralph Bunche Alumni Association members Ernestine Jefferson, Elmore Tyler, Urzetta Lewis and Elaine Harvey, and at-large member Lance Bacon.  
Supervisors are not expected to take any further action or discussion unless and until the School Board votes to turn the property over to the county.  
Supervisors had previously jumped that gun and earmarked a substantial amount of funding for a site survey and renovations.  But that was back in 2003.  
At that time, Supervisors provided $150,000 towards preservation of the building and $16,000 for a site assessment to examine the state of the building and to also look at the rest of the acreage for possible uses.  
But after the School Board voted to not give up the property, those funds were deleted from the county’s Capital Improvements Program.
At this time of economic downturn, the county has no extra money to put toward Ralph Bunche, with planned government center buildings and an addition to the Smoot Library ahead in the queue for funding, along with a new football stadium and two more new schools requested by the School Board.  

 

By Phyllis Cook Staff Reporter

 



 

 

EDA to pay $26K cash incentive to firm buying vacant American Glass property in Ind. Park

The King George Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved providing a cash incentive to King George Warehouse Associates, LLC upon the purchase of the American Glass Property in the amount of $26,435.98.  
The action was taken at a meeting last week on December 11, on a vote of 5-2.  EDA members voting in favor of the cash incentive were Chairman Glen Moore, Rick Ballenger, Anita Churchill, Ike Hughes and Tony Zilic.  Monika Philbrick and Terry Moore voted against the motion.
The incentive payment is conditioned upon King George Warehouse Associates obtaining an occupancy permit and the building being 50 percent leased within two years. 
Theresa O’Quinn, county Director of Economic Development, told The Journal that closing is expected by Christmas through a credit bid with Wachovia Bank. 
Wachovia foreclosed on the property earlier this year after American Glass declared bankruptcy.  
The cash incentive from the EDA will be available and payable commencing December 30, 2008 and will be available until December 30, 2010.
The amount of the incentive is to mitigate the impact of back taxes owed on the property in order to encourage the use and redevelopment of the property in the King George Industrial Park, which is owned by the EDA. 
The building contains 75,000 square feet on 10 acres.  The former glass manufacturing plant had begun operations in March of 2005, fashioning auto glass and various other types of glass, and operated for about a year until it ceased due to cash flow problems.
The contract purchaser of the property, King George Warehouse Associates, LLC, is comprised of John Janney, Philip Atkins and Michael Colangelo. 
Atkins is a well known contractor, Janney is a builder and Colangelo is a commercial/industrial realtor with Johnson Realty Advisors.
Combined, the group’s holdings total over $20M in real estate.  Within the Fredericksburg region the partners have 35 tenants with only one current vacancy. 
A few of their holdings in Fredericksburg include a 36K square foot industrial building on 5 acres leased on Synan Road to a steel fabricator, a 5K square foot office fully-leased building in downtown Fredericksburg, and a 10K square foot industrial building on Houser Drive.  

 

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

No plans for KGMS building in 2009-10 due to cost

The 7th and 8th grades will move out of King George Middle School into the existing high school over the summer.  The existing high school will be vacated at the end of next month, with a new replacement high school expected to be dedicated on January 29.  
There are no plans to use the middle school building in 2009-10.  
That’s because the 6th grade will remain in the county’s three elementary schools instead of being moved into the vacated middle school building with the 5th grade, as discussed for the last three years.  
Timing is everything and this is not the time to ask for big bucks from the county.  
The School Board has gotten the message that the county and its taxpayers are feeling the pinch caused by the current economy.  
At least most of the School Board members have.  
That was evidenced last week when the School Board voted 4-1 to maintain the status quo for the current grade levels in the schools, which had the result of postponing opening the middle school building next fall as an intermediate school.  
Renee Parker voted against the motion.  
Parker argued that the School Board should try to get more money from the county and/or see if some other pots of money might be used to help fund startup and operating costs for an intermediate school next fall.   
Parker suggested that $250K that has been discussed as an additional appropriation in the current year from the Board of Supervisors might be combined with $226K in remaining Sealston Elementary School construction funds to help fund the costs.  
But those two pots of money would not come near to the amount needed, even if both amounts are still available from the county, which is becoming doubtful.
Close to $3 million is the cost estimate for startup and operating costs for the first year of an intermediate school in the current middle school.
$1,282,506 is estimated for the annual, recurring costs of operations for an intermediate school to pay for administrators, faculty, guidance and support staff, along with equipment, books and supplies.
In addition, there would be one-time costs estimated at $1,450,975 to replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC), construct a new well, purchase and install a multi-media system, and refurbish the school’s existing lecture room.
Parker unsuccessfully urged her colleagues to agree to go forward with the intermediate school plan to shift 5th and 6th grades to the middle school and to ask county supervisors for the money.
Parker said Supervisors heard the need at the joint meeting on October 29.  “I would rather ask for what is best for the students than not ask at all,” Parker stated.  
Sherrie Allwine noted that an intermediate school would be an educational benefit, but also said that the current program is working successfully at the three elementary schools with the 6th grades in place.  Allwine added that leaving them in place for the coming year would “buy more time to get the money we need.”
Supervisor of Curriculum Ann Cocke was asked for her opinion.  She stated, “Everything has been worked out and they do a really excellent job for teachers to team effectively.”  She added, “I think we can make anything work.”
Regarding moving the 6th grades, Cocke also said, “We don’t want to move them for the sake of moving, and would want to look long-term.”
Payne Kilbourn concurred with the idea to keep the 7th and 8th grades together and only move them from the middle school to the existing high school for next fall.  
Kilbourn added, “Leave the 6th grade where they are and we will have a year to get our arms around where we want to go.”
Chairman Dennis Paulsen pointed out, “If we go with status quo, we would leave the middle school vacant for a year.”
Lynn Pardee noted, “If we spent the money this year, over $3M this year, it would have to come out of somewhere else in our budget.”  She added, “We would have to make cuts somewhere else.”
But Parker persisted, saying, “This may be just my Pollyanna attitude, but I’m not convinced after the last joint meeting.”  
Parker said they should go back to the Board of Supervisors and ask for more money, saying, “I think we should point this out again to supervisors and make them see that if they are interested in the well-being of these kids, they would only want to move them one time.”
Brown capped the discussion, saying, “I just really need to say we do not have excessively crowded conditions.  Sealston is fine, Potomac is fine.  King George is full, they are crowded, but if we move the three trailers there, it will give them the relief they need.”
Parker was out-voted 4-1 by the rest of the members of the School Board.  
That vote resulted in agreement to only incur an additional $20,882 in annual operating costs.  
Those costs include estimates of $53K for hiring an additional special education teacher and $15K for paraprofessionals and $15K in additional secretarial salaries.  Those costs would be mitigated by a reduction of $62,118 in trailer rental savings.  
Three of the existing trailers at the middle school will be shifted to King George Elementary School to address overcrowding in the main building.
That’s because the vote to keep the status quo also means that the 6th grades will remain at the three elementary schools for at least the next school year.  
It’s possible that the proposal to use the middle school as an intermediate school will be revisited during the course of the next year.
In the meantime, that leaves $39K in the current year’s School Board budget that will not be needed.  That amount was set aside to hire a principal and secretary in April to start hiring staff for an intermediate school.

By Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter



 

Behind-the-wheel driver education could be reinstated

The King George School Board is once again talking about the possibility of reinstating behind-the-wheel driver education for 10th graders.  
The School Board had eliminated behind-the-wheel instruction as part of its driver education program last February to save money.  
The behind-the-wheel portion had originally been deleted to save an estimated $13K for the remainder of the last school year due to a significant revenue shortfall from the state.  
The deletion of the program was carried forward into the 2008-09 budget and the current school year, so only the classroom portion of the driver education program is being offered at King George High School.
The School Board took action on September 24 to revise a policy addressing the provision of driver education.  The revised policy was adopted by a vote of 4-1, with Lynn Pardee voting against the action.  
Adoption of the revision resulted in removing references to providing behind-the-wheel instruction.
But the topic was discussed again at a meeting last month at Pardee’s request.  
At the November 12 meeting, Pardee pushed for the School Board to consider reinstating the program.
“I really feel there is a real population out there that would like to have it offered,” Pardee said.  
Pardee had noted at a meeting on September 10 that a section of state law provides the ability for divisions to request authorization to assess a surcharge in order to further recover program costs that exceed state funds distributed through basic aid to school divisions offering driver education programs.
Pardee said at the last meeting, “There really is no cap in what amount we can request to charge.”
She added that the division should probably absorb some of the costs, but could come up with a fee that reflects a portion of the true costs for the program.  
Pardee got agreement to look at offering the program beginning in 2009-10 from School Board members Renee Parker and Payne Kilbourn.  
Chairman Dennis Paulsen asked Superintendent Candace Brown to bring back additional information at a future meeting.  
Paulsen said, “I would like to know what is out there and what kids are doing and costs, etc.”
He added, “I would be happy to entertain it for next year’s budget, but it may not even be necessary to do it.”  
Paulsen also asked, “Is there any kind of outsourcing that we could do for that?”  
Brown said she would check into different options and report back.

By Phyllis Cook, Staff Reporter

Supervisors hold off on School Board’s request for spending down $226K leftover from Sealston Elementary School construction funds

The King George Board of Supervisors last week showed little enthusiasm to let the School Board spend down $226K in funds remaining after the construction of Sealston Elementary School, which opened in September 2004.
Superintendent Candace Brown has publicly mentioned several times in the last few years that the Sealston construction fund had over $200K in it.  
But it wasn’t until earlier this month that Brown decided to address that money pile by suggesting at a meeting on November 12 that the School Board ask Supervisors if they could spend the money on playground equipment and other items for the elementary school.
The School Board approved the request and forwarded it to the county board.

Read more: Supervisors hold off on School Board’s request for spending down $226K leftover from Sealston...

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