( 0 Votes )

Rick Kelly and Tony O’Brien had another chance to sway voters Thursday (Oct. 17) when about 50 people gathered at the Lake Monticello Clubhouse to hear their positions on issues facing Fluvanna. O’Brien and Kelly are running for the open Rivanna district seat on the Board of Supervisors being vacated by Joe Chesser. Ron Krauss moderated the event.
A large part of the crowd wore O’Brien buttons. In his opening statement, Kelly acknowledged there is a great division among voters with some saying supervisors need to cut “everything to the bare bones and others say we need to raise taxes.”
“I envision a brighter, happier, thriving Fluvanna County,” he said. “I will take incremental steps to adequately fund social services, police and fully fund schools while chipping away at the debt. I don’t want Fluvanna to end up like Detroit.”
Kelly, an attorney, said he would “increase business revenue by actively seeking businesses,” and “with my friend, Rob Bell,((R) Delegate for the 58th District) look into tax incentives to spur economic development.” He also said the University of Virginia not only owns “1,000 acres in Fluvanna,” but could partner with Fluvanna to “match patents with investors,” to spur business growth. Kelly envisioned using one of the recently closed elementary schools to house new business.
Kelly reiterated his earlier commitment to not take the $6,000 yearly stipend allotted to supervisors and to instead put that money toward the school budget.
O’Brien, who owns a computer services business, said he became politically active when the Board of Supervisors decided in 2012 at the last minute to not raise taxes to the advertised rate of 67 cents but to only 59 cents. That cut the school budget by $2 million. He said something had to be done about Fluvanna’s tax burden being largely shouldered by homeowners by attracting business to Zion Crossroads. That cannot be done without getting water to the area, he said.
“Right now, a business owner can’t build a building larger than 12,000 square feet because we don’t have enough water for fire suppression,” O’Brien said.
He acknowledged that investing in infrastructure is a big step.
“Investment will be painful, but without it, nothing changes,” he said. “I want to change the direction of Fluvanna County. I own a business and have the experience to do it.”
O’Brien said he saw the role of a supervisor as “guiding the county through the budget process and seeing it into the future… A good Board looks to the future and we haven’t done that. We need to make the proper investment so the county is successful.”
Kelly said: “People need protection…I’m concerned about taxes going up”
“Some have a cavalier attitude (and say) ‘It’s only a few more dollars’ but where does it stop?”
Kelly took issue with O’Brien’s theory that “when we invest in infrastructure we’re investing in the future.”
“We don’t have a lot of money,” Kelly said. “People say ‘You’ve got to spend money to make money’, but that doesn’t work in a casino.”
O’Brien said in 1999, Louisa made the decision to encourage business growth at Zion Crossroads and built a water tower. Fluvanna has had too many studies looking at bringing water to the area and not enough action. As a result, Fluvanna is now behind Louisa in growth in that critical area, he said.
Kelly challenged that Fluvanna is not Louisa.
“Many don’t realize the county line is past (Route) 250,” he said. “What family of four with hungry kids is going to pull off onto Route 15 and bypass Burger King and McDonalds and gas to drive into Fluvanna to get gas and feed the kids? It’s not going to happen.”
O’Brien countered that reasoning.
“It’s ridiculous to say someone won’t drive (into Fluvanna),” O’Brien said. “When people are looking they don’t pay attention to the county line.”
O’Brien and Kelly tussled over school funding. Kelly said there is “fat” in the school budget that could be reallocated to teachers.
“We need to take a closer look at this budget,” Kelly said.
O’Brien said the numbers show Fluvanna citizens pay the “almost the lowest per capita expenditure” on schools.
“You can’t find fat in a system that’s basically been decimated,” O’Brien said as the crowd broke into the first applause of the night.
Kelly said Fluvanna’s tax rate is the “most expensive in Central Virginia. It’s higher than Albemarle.”
O’Brien said Fluvanna’s rate may be higher than Albemarle, but because our property values are lower, “we have the second lowest (tax) burden in the area. And we won’t restore our property values without economic development.”
Myrna Levine has lived in Lake Monticello for 16 years. She said she’d never come to a candidate night before, but was glad she attended.
“I wanted to know all of the most important issues at hand,” Levine said. “I believe it gave me a better understanding of what is important for our county. It gave me the opportunity to see the issues they feel are important.”
Robert Earl also lives at the Lake and is in real estate.
“I saw a big difference (in the candidates). One had an overall plan versus a piecemeal one,” Earl said. “It gave me an opportunity to compare and contrast. I’m very concerned about property values, tax rates and people buying in this area. It’s not a passive interest. Me and my partner are invested in this community.”