SPSA considering $102 million budget

Published 10:03 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The proposed 2009-2010 budget for the Southeastern Public Service Authority includes no salary increases, cutting 85 employees and making $44.2 million in debt payments.

The budget, presented by SPSA Executive Director Rowland Taylor, also includes an allowance of $1.32 million for legal and consultant costs, an amount that is more than double what was set aside last year. Taylor said the authority expects to use legal and consultant services more this year, therefore necessitating a higher budget amount.

The budget is based on a $170 per ton tipping fee for municipal waste, which was adopted in a separate vote in Wednesday morning’s meeting. Suffolk still pays no tipping fees in exchange for hosting the regional landfill. Virginia Beach – which pays the full tipping fee and then receives a rebate for what it paid minus its $53.88 cap – will be deferring its rebate of $116.12 per ton through June 2010. The authority intends to pay the city back in the future, Taylor said.

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The budget also includes $775,000 to be deposited into the contingency fund. The budget assumes that the authority will own the waste-to-energy plant for the entire year, although negotiations to sell the plant could be completed much sooner. In the event of a sale, a revised budget would be worked out, Taylor told the board.

The board hopes to vote on the budget during its May 27 regular meeting.

In other business at the meeting, Tony Thiel, a SPSA legal representative, briefed the board members on the provisions of House Bill 1872, passed unanimously by the General Assembly during its 2009 session. The legislation requires that the SPSA board adopt a number of new policies, including voting on all contracts more than $30,000, requiring 75 percent approval for issuance of new debt, and performing an analysis of costs of repaying debt prior to issuing new debt.

In addition, the legislation mandates that the makeup of the SPSA board change dramatically on Jan. 1, 2010. To fill the new board, each locality will nominate three potential directors who must possess general business knowledge and must not be an elected official. The governor of Virginia will choose one director from each list. Each locality then will vote upon an “ex officio” member who must be a locality employee. Ex officio members will have voting privileges, according to a Virginia code provision, essentially creating a 16-member board.

Stan Clark, who represents Isle of Wight County on the board, expressed concern about the changes in the board.

“It troubles me that our state legislature can change horses in the middle of the stream,” he said, adding that the communities “entered a good faith agreement many years ago.”

Thiel suggested that the member communities begin thinking now about whom they want to nominate for the governor’s lists.