A presentation made to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors at its March 14 meeting could predict a little more “shroom” in the county’s economic future. The board also received a good audit report from the Blacksburg firm of Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates.
“Gnomestead Hollow” owners Matthew Reiss and Jenna Kuczynski briefed the board on their firm and a partnership with the Carroll County Schools Agricultural Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Labroratory. They also requested the board consider drafting a user agreement between them and the Carroll County Cannery.
Reiss told the board they would be willing to help with upgrades at the Cannery (another hand washing station in the facility’s current breakroom and accommodate power bills if the cannery is opened to them in April rather than June). They two said they plan to stage workshops and to work with the STEM lab to teach students who may be interested in becoming agricultural entrepreneurs.
Reiss told the board Gnomestead Hollow is a small, family farm which grows and provides the highest-quality vegetable ferments, mushrooms and mushroom products produced and procured from the wild as well as a raw vegetable ferment business. All mushrooms are grown on organic substrates, with no synthetic fertilizers, or chemical pesticides/herbicides.
Kuczynski holds a BA in Ecological Systems and Resource Management from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Reiss earned his BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where he studied the practice of sustainable agriculture, small farm management and mushroom cultivation.
Reiss told the board they are actively working with secondary school and graduate students to study and help implement practical applications of mycoremediation to treat agricultural runoff and residential wastewater in Southwest Virginia and the Virginia Piedmont. The ongoing project could dovetail with the STEM lab and give students another avenue locally to “grow” their own local businesses.
He stressed that they are commited to growing food using ethical and biological growing practices, producing and bringing the highest quality, delicious, nutrient-dense vegetable ferments and farmed and foraged mushrooms in the New River Valley and surrounding areas. Workshops for the public as well as students are also being planned by the couple.
“It seemed the next step in this process was to approach you,” said Reiss. “One thing which occurred to me was this area, it’s different if you’re not an entrepreneur or with large agricuture. It’s hard to find work here. We see a pretty awesome opportunity if you are interested. We’d love to see a burgeoning rural food movement here.”
Gordon Jones of Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates gave the board a good report on its annual audit. He noted the impact of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 68, which requires State and Local Governments to present a net pension asset or liability for the difference between investments (held in trust) and the present value of projected pension benefits owned.
“Overall the audit went well,” said Jones. “I’d be remiss without praising the hard work of County employees in connection with this process.”
Jones told the board contributions to pension plans after the valuation date but before the end of the fiscal year are not reported as expenses but as “deferred inflows or outflows” in net position statements. Tables supplied by Jones indicated the county’s net pension liability (asset) is $4,226,206. According to debt summary information supplied to the board, the county’s general long-term obligations for Fiscal Year 2015 are $47,239,334.
He told the board the School Board’s obligations for fiscal year 2015 total $37,176,519. Long-term obligations for 2015 are $84,415,853. Debt per capita in 2015 (with a county population estimate from the 2010 census of 30,042) is $2,809.93, which compares to the state average in 2015 of $3,308.
According to information given to the board by Jones, the county’s ending cash balance for fiscal year 2015 is $8,205,906 with total revenues of $38,530,850. In comparison, 2014’s ending cash balance was $9,401,616 and the total revenues were $38,804,764. He told the board he considered the 2015 ending cash balance a little low, and advised continued caution because statewide localities typically use the ending cash balance as a cushion to get them through from July until December of the next year when tax collections are due.
Jones also discussed the county’s operating reserve, which is at a five-year low. According to Jones’s calculations, the county’s net government operating expenditures for Fiscal Year 2015 are $68,787,868 compared to $69,570,004 in 2014. The ending fund balance expressed as a percentage of operating expenditures for 2015 is 17.8 percent and the ending cash balance as a percent of operating expenditures is 11.8 percent for 2015.
Comparing similar figures from Fscal Year 2014, the ending fund balance was 19.9 percent while the ending cash balance was 13.5 percent. (In 2011, the ending fund balance as a percentage of operating expenditures was 24.5 percent and the ending cash balance as a percent of operating expenditures was 20.9 percent.)
Supervisor Bob Martin said he felt that debt incurred for improvement to schools is being whittled down each year and noted improvements to Carroll County High School represented a last major update to be done for a while. The board agreed with Chairman Joshua Hendrick to work closer with the school district to get its improvement plan and the county Capital Improvement Plan more in synch to insure against any physical improvement “surprises.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.