There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As staff members of the General Assembly start looking to “find” money in Gov. Youngkin’s proposed budget bill that can be used to fund priorities of their committee members (and they will be looking—that is a major part of their jobs during the Session), a good place to look would be capital maintenance reserve. There is at least $200 million in that budget item that could be taken without adversely affecting any of the agencies involved.

As defined by the Dept. of Planning and Budget (DPB) in its reporting instructions to agencies, a maintenance reserve (MR) project is “a major repair or replacement to plant, property, or equipment that is intended to extend its useful life.” A typical MR project would be repair or replacement of built-in equipment such as in HVAC systems; repair or replacement of building or plant components such as roofs or windows; and repair of existing utility systems such as steam lines or water systems.

The cost for an MR project must exceed $25,000 but be no more than $2.0 million for a non-roof replacement project and no more than $4.0 million for a roof replacement. DPB may grant exceptions to these dollar amounts and agencies must submit annual reports to DPB on MR expenditures.

Rather than require agencies to submit separate requests for these projects, a lump sum appropriation for MR is provided in the capital central appropriations portion of the budget bill. Language in the item provides the allocation of that amount among agencies, along with other conditions. Gov. Youngkin’s proposed budget would provide $404 million for MR for the upcoming biennium.

In past years, the allocations to individual agencies were based on the number of square feet in buildings owned by the agencies, with allowances made for newly-constructed or refurbished buildings. The method used for the allocation in the proposed budget bill is unknown.

In examining agencies’ utilization of MR funding, a key factor needs to be kept in mind. Unlike operating appropriations, year-end balances in capital projects are required to be re-appropriated for the next fiscal year, unless the project is completed. Therefore, what MR funding an agency does not spend in a fiscal year is carried forward into the next year.

For this analysis, the major premise was: if an agency consistently does not spend all its MR appropriation, thereby building up a sizable balance, it should not continue to receive additional appropriations until it spends what it has.

In comparing the amounts of MR funding available to agencies with their historical spending patterns, the following criterion was used: if an agency did not receive any MR allocation for the next biennium, would it have enough MR balance to get it through three fiscal years (FY 2024, FY 2025, and FY 2026), based on its most recent five-year average annual expenditure?

It was determined that, out of the agencies with the largest MR allocations in the proposed budget bill, five currently have sufficient MR appropriation to enable them to spend at, or above, their most recent annual rates through FY 2026 without receiving any additional appropriation for the next biennium.

It needs to be stressed that this conclusion does not reflect the actual need for MR funding. Each agency likely could justify on paper its need for the additional appropriations at issue and, possibly, for even more than is being proposed. However, they have, in recent years, shown that they are incapable, for whatever reasons, of spending the appropriations that they have been provided, thereby building up sizable balances. (Actually, these low rates of spending stretch back further than five years.)

The agencies and institutions identified were:

  • Department of General Services (DGS)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
  • Virginia Community College System (VCCS)
  • Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)
  • Department of Corrections (DOC)

The table below provides the details. Under each agency, the data in the first row show the amount of the MR balance on June 30, 2023, that was re-appropriated and carried forward into the current fiscal year. The next row is the agency’s allocation, and subsequent appropriation, for FY 2024 in the Appropriation Act enacted in September 2023 (Chap. 1). The next row is the total resulting MR appropriation for the current fiscal year. The fourth row is the agency’s average annual MR expenditure for the preceding five years. Next follows the amount spent so far this fiscal year for MR. The final row shows the agency’s allocation for the biennium in the Governor’s proposed, which, if enacted by the legislature, would be added to any balance on June 30, 2024.

The most extreme of these agencies can serve as an illustration of the conclusions of this report. At the beginning of this fiscal year, DOC had an appropriation of $61.4 million for MR. If it did not receive any additional appropriation for the 2024-2026 biennium, it could spend $15 million annually for three fiscal years (2024, 2025, and 2026), 36 percent higher than its most recent average annual expenditure, and still have a balance of $16 million on June 30, 2026. In fact, it would have to spend almost twice as much annually than it has spent in recent years to use up that $61.4 million balance by the end of FY 2026. It is noteworthy that, during a little more than the first half of this fiscal year, DOC has spent only $5.1 million of its MR balance. A similar analysis is applicable to each of the other agencies or institutions.

The total amount of MR funding proposed by the Governor in his budget for these five agencies is $204.3 million. The General Assembly could reduce the total amount proposed for MR by this amount and drop those agencies from the allocation list without impeding their MR efforts.

This is one-time funding; therefore, the legislature would be limited in how the “found” money could be used. One possible use could be continuation of the funding provided in this year’s Appropriation Act to address learning loss in K-12, which the Governor did not include in his budget bill (more on that in a future article).


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Comments

134 responses to “There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!”

  1. how_it_works Avatar
    how_it_works

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between having a surplus of MR funds and having a lot of water-stained drop ceiling tiles…

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      I just checked my personal MR fund. Well blow me down! Says insufficient funds. Dear GA. Please forward your unused MR money to my MR fund. Need a new roof. Sprung a leak from that avalanche of rain the other day.

      1. how_it_works Avatar
        how_it_works

        You may want to have someone check your plumbing vent stack boots on the roof (or check them yourself if you are so inclined–sometimes the problem is visible in the attic). The ones they’ve been using for at least the last 3 decades are made of rubber that doesn’t seem to hold up to the sun very well. This is a major cause of leaks; the boot deteriorates and allows water to leak down the outside of the pipe into the attic.

        If this is the problem, a perma-boot repair kit (available at Home Depot) can be used to easily fix the problem.

        In a real pinch, you can go into the attic and spray some Great Stuff foam around the pipe where it goes through the roof.

        1. 👍

          Flex-seal also works.

        2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          I have the original tin shingle roof from 1936 up there. Flat cap at the peak. 4 square design. Will check the spot you have pointed out. I have had a leak there before too. Always happens with sideways rain. Calgon take me away!

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            what is a tin shingle? Not a continuing standing seam ?

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Old school architectural shingles that came in long strips and nailed down horizontally. Very rare to find an old house that still has them.

          3. New metal ‘strip’ shingles are still available, but most of them are now made from aluminum.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            This Old House (showing the most expensive way to do anything) did an episode with a “single piece” metal roof. It’s vertical strips with a flap and flange. The flap is screwed to the sheathing and the next strip is swaged to the flange. Makes the entire roof a single piece of metal.

        3. 👍

          Flex-seal also works.

          1. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Not nearly as fun as expanding foam, though. The satisfaction of dispensing Great Stuff from a can without making a huge mess is incomparable to almost anything else.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            3M 5200. When they tear down the house, it’ll still be where it’s put, stuck to the air.

          3. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Sikaflex Polyurethane Construction Sealant is very similar to 3M 5200 and is available at Home Depot for about 1/4 the price.

            Dunno what’s so special about 3M 5200 to warrant the $22 per 10oz tube cost. It’s major ingredient, an MDI polyurethane prepolymer, is about $70 a gallon.

          4. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Sikaflex Polyurethane Construction Sealant is very similar to 3M 5200 and is available at Home Depot for about 1/4 the price.

            Dunno what’s so special about 3M 5200 to warrant the $22 per 10oz tube cost. It’s major ingredient, an MDI polyurethane prepolymer, is about $70 a gallon.

        4. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          You can always just put a boot over the boot. Galoshes, so to speak.

          1. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            That’s what the perma-boot is, except it’s a little more permanent of a repair.

        5. DJRippert Avatar

          And … that’s why the poster is named, “how it works …”

  2. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
    energyNOW_Fan

    Let the fun begin, it seems. SS (can we abbrev?) on WTOP radio this AM saying we need taxes due to under-funded schools in Va. compared to other states. Where does our money go? I mean we have tremendous cost savings compared say to typical home rule state (eg; NJ) since we have no towns here, just County services.

    1. how_it_works Avatar
      how_it_works

      The largest employer in Virginia pays no taxes. All the land they own is not taxable. That MAY be part of the problem.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Government:

        Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU): With over 51,000 employees across its multiple campuses, VCU is Virginia’s largest public university and a major employer in Richmond and beyond.

        University of Virginia (UVA): This prestigious public university employs over 23,000 people in Charlottesville and offers significant economic impact to the region.

        Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT): VDOT employs over 8,600 individuals responsible for maintaining and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.

        Naval Station Norfolk: With over 10,200 civilian and contractor employees, this naval base is a major economic driver in Hampton Roads.
        Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Ft. Story: This joint base employs over 5,000 civilians and contractors in Virginia Beach and contributes significantly to the local economy.
        Healthcare:

        Sentara Healthcare: This non-profit health system employs over 36,000 people across Virginia and is a major provider of healthcare services throughout the state.

        Inova Health System: Located primarily in Northern Virginia, Inova employs over 18,000 individuals and operates nine hospitals and numerous outpatient facilities.

        University of Virginia Health System: With over 12,000 employees, this academic medical center in Charlottesville serves as a major healthcare provider and research institution.

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        They might go elsewhere… which if done slowly enough.

      3. I find it hard to believe that Dollar Tree pays no taxes.

        1. how_it_works Avatar
          how_it_works

          Dollar Tree is the largest company in Virginia. The largest employer in Virginia is not a company.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I had no idea and I would have thought Dollar General was far bigger.

            We have two Dollar Trees that I know of in the Fredericksburg area and at least a dozen Dollar Generals.

          2. Okay.

            But what taxes should the federal government and/or the military pay? Neither of them actually produces a product, nor do they sell anything for profit.

            And by the way, there are more Dollar Tree employees in Virginia (+/-190,000) than there are civilian federal employees (+/- 145,000).

          3. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            They shouldn’t pay any taxes.

            The problem has been recognized…there is or was something called “impact aid” to reimburse local government (Edit: school districts only) for the tax loss associated with Federal employment and property ownership. I haven’t heard about it in years. Questionable how much it helps or helped.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            I had no idea and I would have thought Dollar General was far bigger.

            We have two Dollar Trees that I know of in the Fredericksburg area and at least a dozen Dollar Generals.

          5. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            I thought the employment king in the retail sector in Virginia would’ve been Wal-Mart.

          6. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Dollar Tree owns Family Dollar, if you didn’t know. So they may be bigger than they appear.

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            had no idea. So when we say Dollar Tree – it INCLUDES all the DGs?

          8. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            No, it includes all of the Family Dollars.

            Dollar General is a separate company from Dollar Tree/Family Dollar. The Dollar Tree and Family Dollar merged in 2015, from what I read.

          9. LarrytheG Avatar

            Family Dollar…. Dollar General… Dollar Tree? All are now Dollar Tree?

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            eh….

            here’s a summary of the number of Dollar General and Dollar Tree stores in Virginia:

            Dollar General: Approximately 390 stores in Virginia.
            Dollar Tree: Approximately 215 stores in Virginia.

          11. Too many Dollars…

          12. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            But not enough dollars.

          13. LarrytheG Avatar

            We have 2 Dollar Trees, 1 Family Dollar and a dozen or more Dollar Generals.

          14. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            I thought the employment king in the retail sector in Virginia would’ve been Wal-Mart.

          15. I was surprised, too.

            Of course, Dollar Tree is based in Virginia, so a large percentage of their corporate staff are employed here.

            It is quite possible that Walmart has a larger number of store employees in Virginia than does Dollar Tree.

      4. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Why you gotta talk about Uncle Sugar like that.

        1. how_it_works Avatar
          how_it_works

          All that sugar is bad for one’s health.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            NOVA might be tranquil and a cheaper place to live without it also.

      5. LarrytheG Avatar

        Government:

        Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU): With over 51,000 employees across its multiple campuses, VCU is Virginia’s largest public university and a major employer in Richmond and beyond.

        University of Virginia (UVA): This prestigious public university employs over 23,000 people in Charlottesville and offers significant economic impact to the region.

        Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT): VDOT employs over 8,600 individuals responsible for maintaining and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.

        Naval Station Norfolk: With over 10,200 civilian and contractor employees, this naval base is a major economic driver in Hampton Roads.
        Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Ft. Story: This joint base employs over 5,000 civilians and contractors in Virginia Beach and contributes significantly to the local economy.
        Healthcare:

        Sentara Healthcare: This non-profit health system employs over 36,000 people across Virginia and is a major provider of healthcare services throughout the state.

        Inova Health System: Located primarily in Northern Virginia, Inova employs over 18,000 individuals and operates nine hospitals and numerous outpatient facilities.

        University of Virginia Health System: With over 12,000 employees, this academic medical center in Charlottesville serves as a major healthcare provider and research institution.

        1. By the way, George Mason, with more than 38,000 students is the largest public university in Virginia. VCU ranks third in that regard. Virginia Tech has almost 10,000 more students enrolled than does VCU, and they employ about 13,000 people (including full and part time).

          I find it very difficult to believe that VCU employs 51,000 people. With about 28,600 students enrolled, that comes to almost 1.8 employees per student. The source I found says VCU employs +/-23,000, but that’s still a much higher employee to student ratio than VT.

          I wonder why VCU needs so many employees.

        2. By the way, George Mason, with more than 38,000 students is the largest public university in Virginia. Virginia Tech is a close second. VCU ranks third in that regard.

          I noticed Virginia Tech has almost 9,000 more students enrolled than does VCU, and they employ about 13,000 people (including full and part time).

          I find it very difficult to believe that VCU employs 51,000 people. With about 28,600 students enrolled, that comes to almost 1.8 employees per student. The source I found says VCU employs +/-23,000, but that’s still a much higher employee to student ratio than VT.

          I wonder why VCU needs so many employees. More security personnel?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            is VCU also a hospital like UVA?

            interesting data – not guranteed 100% accurate, note differences
            in George Mason and VCU…

            Federal Employers in Virginia
            **Rank
            Employer
            Location
            Estimated Employee Count**
            1
            Pentagon
            Arlington County
            23,000
            2
            Department of Navy Crystal City
            Arlington County
            15,000
            3
            Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ)
            Quantico
            20,000
            4
            Fort Walker (formerly Fort A.P. Hill)
            Caroline County
            1,500
            5
            Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) – Richmond Branch
            Richmond
            5,000
            6
            National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) – Quantico Facility
            Quantico
            300
            7
            Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Academy
            Quantico
            1,000
            8
            Defense Security Service (DSS) Headquarters
            Alexandria
            1,500
            9
            National Science Foundation (NSF) Headquarters
            Alexandria
            1,000
            10
            U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)
            Alexandria
            1,200

            Fairfax County Public Schools: 18,000 employees
            Prince William County Public Schools: 14,000 employees
            Loudoun County Public Schools: 12,000 employees
            Virginia Beach City Public Schools: 10,000 employees
            Chesterfield County Public Schools: 9,000 employees
            Henrico County Public Schools: 8,000 employees
            Chesapeake Public Schools: 7,500 employees
            Norfolk Public Schools: 7,000 employees
            Higher Education:
            Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU): 16,000 employees
            Old Dominion University (ODU): 12,000 employees
            University of Virginia (UVA): 11,000 employees
            George Mason University (GMU): 10,000 employees
            Virginia Tech: 9,500 employees
            James Madison University (JMU): 8,000 employees
            Christopher Newport University (CNU): 7,500 employees
            William & Mary: 7,000 employees
            Virginia Colleges:
            Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC): 7,000 employees
            Tidewater Community College (TCC): 6,500 employees
            Virginia Western Community College (VWCC): 5,000 employees
            J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College: 4,500 employees
            Blue Ridge Community College: 4,000 employees
            Total Estimated Employees in Virginia Education:
            K-12: 85,500 employees
            Higher Education: 82,000 employees
            Virginia Colleges: 31,000 employees
            Total: 198,500 employees

          2. is VCU also a hospital like UVA?

            Yes, but I’m pretty sure VCU Health is not included when counting the number of University employees*. And with 12,500 people employed there, even if you added the numbers up the total is significantly lower than 51,000.

            Also, from the list you posted: Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU): 16,000 employees. This is even less than the number I found earlier, and it seems a more reasonable figure to me.

            Where did you see the 51,000 figure?

            *Edit/Correction: I just noticed that the figure I mentioned above (23,000 VCU employees) does include VCU Health employees. Now I am really confused.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            From BARD – which is full of guano…sometimes:

            ” who are the largest employers in Virginia that are not companies?

            Virginia boasts a diverse range of large employers beyond just private companies. Here are some notable examples:

            Government:

            Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU): With over 51,000 employees across its multiple campuses, VCU is Virginia’s largest public university and a major employer in Richmond and beyond.
            University of Virginia (UVA): This prestigious public university employs over 23,000 people in Charlottesville and offers significant economic impact to the region.
            Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT): VDOT employs over 8,600 individuals responsible for maintaining and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.
            Naval Station Norfolk: With over 10,200 civilian and contractor employees, this naval base is a major economic driver in Hampton Roads.
            Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Ft. Story: This joint base employs over 5,000 civilians and contractors in Virginia Beach and contributes significantly to the local economy.

            from VCU: ” With more than 23,000 employees, VCU and VCU Health also have a significant impact on Central Virginia’s economy.”

            https://bulletin.vcu.edu/about/#:~:text=With%20more%20than%2023%2C000%20employees,impact%20on%20Central%20Virginia's%20economy.

          4. The figures for university employees from BARD do seem to be guano.

            It underestimated the number of employees at UVA (UVA themselves say 28,000 including UVA Health); and it vastly overestimated for VCU . Perhaps BARD added students and employees together to get 51,000 at VCU… 😎

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            BARD goes out on the internet and “grabs” stuff and with great abandon and error… like media… I never trust one source and that includes BARD but if you ask it to do the equivalent of a number of separate searches… it will do but I’d double check it for sure if you want more than just some rough comparisons…

            It also was claiming that Arlington is part of DC so you KNOW it’s full of guano and when you call it on it… it apologizes and then repeats the same error again… until you insist it stop doing that!

          6. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            “It also was claiming that Arlington is part of DC ”

            That was true, once….

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            perhaps, but not today… and BARD has somehow got it stuck in it’s “mind”.

            question to BARD….

            is Arlington part of DC?

            I apologize for the confusion in my earlier responses. Arlington County is not actually part of the District of Columbia (DC). While it’s geographically located directly across the Potomac River from DC and shares close economic and cultural ties, Arlington is an independent jurisdiction within the state of Virginia.

            Here’s a brief clarification:

            District of Columbia (DC): The federal district established in 1790 as the national capital of the United States. It has its own elected government and operates independently from any state.
            Arlington County, Virginia: A separate county within the Commonwealth of Virginia located directly across the Potomac River from DC. It has its own elected government and is subject to Virginia state laws.
            While historically a part of DC, Arlington County was retroceded back to Virginia in 1847. Since then, it has become its own thriving city and county with a distinct identity and government.

            I’m still under development and learning to provide accurate information consistently. I appreciate your patience and understanding as I continue to improve. Please let me know if you have any other questions or need further clarification about the relationship between DC and Arlington.”

          8. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Ask her what the definition of “is” is.

          9. Or “why are we here”

          10. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            “What is the meaning of life”

            If she says 42…

          11. Wow. BARD is quite loquacious, isn’t he/she?

          12. LarrytheG Avatar

            yes…. and can lie out the wazoo..

          13. and can lie out the wazoo..

            Oh, well, a politician, then.

            When do you think BARD will run for elected office?

          14. LarrytheG Avatar

            never. It’s got a place… it can find some kinds of info faster than you and then you
            can follow on to verify, etc… it’s far from infallible.. and never use as authorative unless
            you can verify with a second source.

          15. But what if it becomes self-aware?…

          16. LarrytheG Avatar

            it seems to but I don’t know if it really “remembers” as much as it “apologizes” multiple times as it continues to make the same mistakes….. not sure if I go back a month later, that it continues making the same mistakes and apologizing… It’s data driven, so if it’s still using data that conflicts or it can’t distinguish between bad data and good data and just continues to use it badly, is it “learning” and in turn, self-aware that it is not?

          17. DJRippert Avatar

            Larry, good to see you working in the modern world with Large Language Models like Bard.

            I use ChatGPT 4 myself and fork over the $20 / month. Of course, I need that capability for work so it’s reimbursed.

            CharGPT 4 has a 3% hallucination rate. In other words, it’s 97% accurate.

            I’m not sure how accurate you think most of the posters on this board are, but I’d say 97% would be pretty good.

            As for GenerativeAI overall, I see it as game changing in much the same way that cloud computing changed the game.

            Yet, Luddites are everywhere.

            I remember back in 2008 when cloud was just getting started – people would say that cloud was just the next generation of time sharing. They swore their companies would never use it.

            The few of those people who retained their employment changed their tune.

            GenAI will be the same.

            Here is a list of predictions about GenAI for 2024:

            https://www.infinitive.com/2024-predictions/

            Here is the “leaderboard” for LLM hallucination rates:

            https://github.com/vectara/hallucination-leaderboard

            I believe that over 3 years, the state government in Virginia could reduce its headcount by 20% if it implemented an effective GenerativeAI program.

            Of course, that would require those in the state government to actually care about how much tax money they spend.

          18. LarrytheG Avatar

            Totally agree. People’s fear of AI reminds me ever so much or luddite behaviors in the past with regard to industrialization…and other advances.

            People do not understand how the “cloud” works, or how Amazon is way more than selling “stuff”, AWS is huge and driving the need for data centers – which many also do not understand even what the data centers do and oppose them even as they themselves use the internet on an almost continuous basis but don’t realize it.

            But I disagree with you about the state and it’s motivations and behaviors with regard to costs and tax revenue. I look at agencies like DMV – which have changed dramatically even from 10 years ago. THere is still more need for more efficiency but they have changed with more and more services available online. VDOT is another example with Smartscale – has dramatically changed how transportation is funded and prioritized and yes, includes variable tolling using technology and “cloud” that did not exist even 10-20 years ago. How many people do taxes by hand and on paper? Yes, private companies offer the tools but without IRS and efile – forget it. You no doubt, use GPS, That’s from GOVT satellites, dude. You no doubt pay attention to weather. Again GOVT satellites!

          19. DJRippert Avatar

            Given that VDOT has sold out much new road construction in NoVa to for-profit transportation companies like Transurban, I wonder why they don’t just continue that practice for maintenance and drop head count from 8,600 to about 600.

          20. LarrytheG Avatar

            Total BS and you know it. 620 projects: https://syip.virginiadot.org/Pages/allProjects.aspx

          21. DJRippert Avatar

            Don’t be silly. VDOT sold out the Beltway Toll Road and the Greenway. It didn’t build either. In exchange for the right to charge sky high tolls, VDOT factored those roads out to private enterprises.

            Why?

            Because VDOT finally admitted they lacked the competence to build those roads quickly and (relatively) cheaply.

            Given the admission of VDOT regarding their inability to build major new roads, why would you doubt that outsourcing existing maintenance to private enterprise would be cheaper than VDOT doing it themselves?

          22. DJRippert Avatar

            Don’t be silly. VDOT sold out the Beltway Toll Road and the Greenway. It didn’t build either. In exchange for the right to charge sky high tolls, VDOT factored those roads out to private enterprises.

            Why?

            Because VDOT finally admitted they lacked the competence to build those roads quickly and (relatively) cheaply.

            Given the admission of VDOT regarding their inability to build major new roads, why would you doubt that outsourcing existing maintenance to private enterprise would be cheaper than VDOT doing it themselves?

          23. LarrytheG Avatar

            there ain’t no more right-of-way for major roads in NoVa without tearing down already developed property. TRUTH! You’d want VDOT to condemn people’s property right? VDOT had no choice in
            NoVa. People insist on driving solo at rush hour to the point where you’d have virtual gridlock if VDOT did not step in an institute congestion tolling. TRUTH! 800 million dollars worth of non-toll projects! And you apparently don’t realize that VDOT contracts out to the private sector for BOTH construction and maintenance! VDOT is doing it right! Other states are emulating VDOT in many areas because it’s a better operation, a more cost-effective operation, actually protects tax-payer dollars. They no more are building roads to serve those who want all they drive anytime, anywhere… without regard to impacts.

          24. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            ” I wonder why they don’t just continue that practice for maintenance and drop head count from 8,600 to about 600.”

            Because it’s a jobs program.

          25. LarrytheG Avatar

            ??? ya’ll don’t think maintenance is an important issue for roads?

            Do you realize than fully 1/2 of the VDOT budget is for maintenance ?

            you don’t think it is needed?

          26. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            They should outsource the maintenance to the lowest bidder.

          27. LarrytheG Avatar

            They DO for almost all of it! Where you see VDOT onsite sometimes is for operations – like dealing with the traffic signals or monitoring contractor work or emergency work that can’t get done fast with a contract.

            You’re not happy with how they deal with your drainage issue but you should realize what happens when a culvert blows out or trees come across the road or a road needs to be milled and re-paved… like I said, fully 1/2 of their budget is for maintenance and they fund that first BEFORE they fund new construction. The basic problem is the critics take a lot of stuff for granted … just forget it is even done.

          28. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            “emergency work that can’t get done fast with a contract”

            You can have contractors on-call. There are places in this country where all of the traffic signal work, for example, is done by contractors. If a signal is damaged in an accident, an on-call contractor deals with it.

          29. LarrytheG Avatar

            most of it works that way… the vast majority of it works that way. no?

          30. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            For traffic signal work, it’s more common with small towns that have only a handful of traffic signals that cannot justify having a full time traffic signal tech.

          31. LarrytheG Avatar

            towns often maintain their own, right? Some probably have on-call services. Are ya’ll 100% 24/7 where you work?
            bullet proof? 😉

          32. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Yes, in most states, Virginia included, towns are responsible for maintaining their own traffic signals. Where I work, if the customer wants 24×7 support, they can get it…just goes in the contract and it’s staffed accordingly. That can be either someone on site or someone on-call or both (in case there’s a major problem
            the on-site person cannot handle), all depends on what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. The majority of contracts from what I’ve seen just have someone on-call after hours.

          33. LarrytheG Avatar

            but you perform 100% flawlessly 24/7 like VDOT should? 😉

          34. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            I can’t speak for the organization I work for, but I’ve worked plenty of late nights. Sometimes till 2 in the morning.

          35. LarrytheG Avatar

            Oh, VDOT works late, even double and triple shifts… for sure.. but they still don’t get a pothole fixed within a day of it appearing… either… so they’re still not doing their job according to their critics! They got blamed for that snowstorm!

          36. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            I reported a “pavement deficiency” to them in August. They fixed it in late December. I just hope it wasn’t fixed with a bunch of cold patch.

          37. LarrytheG Avatar

            Whatever they’re using on the secondary road I use…. it hardens and becomes a bump/rumble strip but no more
            pothole. I try my best to steer around it if no other cars are coming but if they are I just have to suk it up!
            Does that count as a “fail”? 😉

          38. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            They use cold patch when the asphalt plants are closed during the winter, or so I’ve heard. Cold patch isn’t a permanent repair, unlike hot patch.

          39. LarrytheG Avatar

            They’re using a hot patch machine… I’ve seen it.

          40. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Even in winter?

          41. LarrytheG Avatar

            yes…. the truck carries hot stuff in the back and pipes it to the snout tube I think. At least seems to work
            that way on the secondary road to my subdivision entrance that used to generate potholes but now is
            a series of “bumps” where the potholes used to be…

          42. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            That sort of sounds like the “Pothole Killer” but I haven’t seen VDOT use those in 10 years or more. Are they still using them down your way?

          43. LarrytheG Avatar

            I think they are… I think there was an article about it in the local paper but can’t find the article.

          44. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Wonder why I haven’t seen them in use around here.

          45. LarrytheG Avatar

            Dunno… what would they be using on major arteries?

          46. LarrytheG Avatar

            I dunno. But they seemed to do better fixes than hot patching…. I think also, there is a difference in what they do
            for a major arterial versus a secondary road or a subdivision road (where down this way, it’s a lot of chip seal).

          47. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Hospital.

          48. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Money maker.

      6. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
        energyNOW_Fan

        ooh I like that…I mean I do not like it, but it is down my alley (line of thinking)

  3. It is noteworthy that, during a little more than the first half of this fiscal year, DOC has spent only $5.1 million of its MR balance.

    This sounds to me like a management issue, not a funding issue. I am 100% certain that DOC has more than +/-$10-million per year in Replacement and Renewal (R&R) needs. They have about 50 correctional facilities they operate statewide. Ten million dollars in expenditures comes to only $200,000 per facility per year. Unless all of Virginia’s prisons are less than 20 years old, that is nowhere near enough money to cover the actual R&R work needed at facilities the size of our state prisons. I strongly suspect that DOC either does not have a comprehensive R&R Plan, or that if they do have one they are not following it.

    I know an argument can be made that if they don’t spend the money they should lose it, but I would much rather see the GA require DOC to implement and maintain a system-wide R&R Plan that is adequate to keep up with the maintenance and replacement needs of our prisons.

    NOTE: Edited at 1330 to correct my misuse of an acronym.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      DOC likely has a “plan”. Years ago, when I was at DPB and was the analyst assigned to DOC, I would complain about their relatively low spending on MR. The capital director would show me how every one of the dollars appropriated for MR was committed. So they had a plan. They just could not spend the money they had as quickly as it was appropriated. And the unexpended balance has been building up every since then. My point: stop giving theses agencies money until they have spent what they have.

      By the way, the Code requires agencies to have a six-year capital plan (not including MR) It’s useless.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I agree. In fact, it should be a requirement to getting that money to start with and that “plan” used to guide the future appropriation process.

      I’d put some of this on the GA itself for not requiring all agencies to keep a “plan”.

      Not doing such a process, makes the overall appropriation an “attractive” place to grab
      money rather than go through a full budget process and give justification to those who might say this is “proof” that we collect too much tax to start with!

      One agency where you DO see such robust planning is VDOT. That started to happen “better” after they spent decades “approving” projects that they had no idea where the money was coming from – other than “sometime in the future”.

      Now, they know how much total funding they have for the year and they use the SmartScale process to prioritize it to as many of the smartscale proposals that they can fund. Anything they can’t fund, goes to next year where the Smartscale process repeats.

      1. By the way, I neglected to mention it in my comment, but I think all state agencies should be required to develop and maintain a comprehensive R&R Plan.

        I agree with you that VDOT is better at planning for it than most state agencies.

        1. how_it_works Avatar
          how_it_works

          So what’s the rainstorm water collection bucket deployment limit before the roof must be replaced?

          I figure that more than 2 buckets per 1000 sq ft of roof area might warrant a roof replacement…

          1. You raise a good point. I agree with Larry that VDOT is pretty adept at planning and allocating funds for transportation-related R&R projects.

            On the other hand, I have no idea how good (or bad) they are at R&R planning for their own buildings and facilities.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            I would imagine they are good at that also if they use the same in-house folk.

            Not that long ago, VDOT was terrible at this…. They had approved 2-3 times as many projects that they had money for – over 10 years. Once they went to SmartScale, it got a lot better.

            And they have tough issues because it can take 7-10 years to get a road built and over that period of time bad stuff can happen to costs originally estimated.

          3. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            My observations and experience is that in both government AND private sector, building maintenance is always a low priority.

          4. You’ve got that right. My own opinion is that an R&R plan should be funded from the first year a new building or facility goes into service. The simplest and most expensive method is to divide the original construction cost by the useful life expectancy and put that amount of dollars away every year.

            When actually implementing an R&R Plan, things are far more complicated than this simple equation. In my experience developing R&R funding plans for public buildings and facilities, most of the time putting between 25% and 50% of the “full” amount into the R&R fund each year is quite sufficient to pay for keeping things in an acceptable state of repair.

            R&R for things like wastewater treatment plants needs to be funded at the higher end of the above range, while office buildings can usually get by with something closer to the 25% figure.

            Of course, expensive unexpected failures can and do occur, and these will quickly deplete your R&R fund.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            I’m not shopping in a Walmart that leaks or the doors don’t work or the heat/air don’t work, or the cold coolers are not working…

            not going to a DMV that has broken stuff …

            not going to hospital that has broken stuff…

            going to complain mightily if VDOT stuff is broke…

            going to complain if the PO has broken stuff…etc..

            etc, etc…

            I KNOW that people will do that for their homes….

            trying to think of what places I’d tolerate with broke stuff.

            I KNOW the prisons have broke stuff….

            but not sure of what else.

          6. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            New (3 years old now) Taco Bell had broken air conditioning for most of last summer. A lot of stores in strip malls seem to have stained ceiling tiles. Parking garage at work had a busted light fixture with live wires hanging out of it (it was like that for months, probably still isn’t fixed). Just a few examples I’ve seen. Outside of broken HVAC, a lot of people won’t notice or care.

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            small non-company small busines stores in malls…yep… I’d leave a McD’s or Burger King that had broken stuff / HVAC, etc.. Parking garage, yep…not surprised… but vast majority of most stores and govt would be a problem I think. BTW, we had quite a number of flooded culverts and roads… do you consider
            that to be “broke”? 😉

          8. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            Depends on how often the flooding is happening, what the cause is, and what the effects are. If it happens frequently, is caused by clogged storm drains or culverts, and is effecting traffic on a heavily-used road…yep…that’s broke.

          9. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            How many VPD, is there an alternative route, how often does that happen and what would be involved in remediating it…lots of questions.

          10. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Never get a boat through there.

          11. You’ve got that right. My own opinion is that an R&R plan should be funded from the first year a new building or facility goes into service. The simplest and most expensive method is to divide the original construction cost by the useful life expectancy and put that amount of dollars away every year.

            When actually implementing an R&R Plan, things are far more complicated than this simple equation. In my experience developing R&R funding plans for public buildings and facilities, most of the time putting between 25% and 50% of the “full” amount into the R&R fund each year is quite sufficient to pay for keeping things in an acceptable state of repair.

            R&R for things like wastewater treatment plants needs to be funded at the higher end of the above range, while office buildings can usually get by with something closer to the 25% figure, with schools somewhere i between.

            Somewhere on my 2Tb backup drive I have a very complicated spreadsheet I developed for computing the overall life expectancy and the ‘required’ R&R funding of a building or facility. I haven’t thought about that in several years.

            And, of course, expensive unexpected failures can and do occur, and these can quickly deplete your R&R fund.

          12. LarrytheG Avatar

            I’m registered to a group called Abandoned in Va and it’s folks posting pictures of old farmhouses and such – and one of the things that seems to be often is the roof if made of metal.

            Spotsylvania Schools , a few years back after years of roof leaks from conventional roofs in the schools, had a study done, and metal roofs won hands done but the upfront cost was substantially more than a conventional roof.

            The other. A study to rehabilitate and older school. The results of the study was that it was cheaper to tear it down and rebuild than to try to rehabilitate it.

            so this goes to the idea of paying to maintain a building. Once you’ve sunk money into it – you may be between a rock and a hard place. It may have been cheaper to pull the plug and rebuild.

          13. A study to rehabilitate and older school. The results of the study was that it was cheaper to tear it down and rebuild than to try to rehabilitate it.

            Old school buildings are tricky. If you propose tearing one down a lot of people come out in opposition because “my grandmother, my mother, and I all attended that school – it’s an important part of our locality’s history” or “it was once an all-black school and by tearing it down you’ll be erasing black history”, etc. etc.

            Believe me, I have been there. In a lot of cases, no matter what the cost/benefit analysis says, you’re not tearing down that school. Sure, we’ll have to spend more money to acquire land for the new school, but you’re not tearing the old one down.

            Then it becomes your job to find a new purpose for the building and develop a plan for refurbishing it to that purpose while spending as little money as possible.

            Bottom line, citizens’ emotional attachments aside, sometimes an old building is just an old building.

          14. A study to rehabilitate and older school. The results of the study was that it was cheaper to tear it down and rebuild than to try to rehabilitate it.

            Old school buildings are tricky. If you propose tearing one down a lot of people come out in opposition because “my grandmother, my mother, and I all attended that school – it’s an important part of our locality’s history” or “it was once an all-black school and by tearing it down you’ll be erasing black history”, etc. etc.

            Believe me, I have been there. In a lot of cases, no matter what the cost/benefit analysis says, you’re not tearing down that school. Sure, we’ll have to spend more money to acquire land for the new school, but you’re not tearing the old one down.

            Then it becomes your job to find a new purpose for the building and develop a plan for refurbishing it to that purpose while spending as little money as possible.

            Bottom line, citizens’ emotional attachments aside, sometimes an old building is just an old building.

          15. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Not even beginning to mention the cost of asbestos and lead paint mitigation when discussing older buildings.

          16. Yup.

          17. LarrytheG Avatar

            Well, someone in Spotsy had the bright idea of leasing the old high school to a Catholic Church for their school… until they found out what it would have cost to bring it up to code and realized the cost of the lease to pay for it far exceeded what it would cost for an entirely new modern facility.

            So the county continues to use it for various sundry functions… and exempts the code.

          18. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            When I was on the HOA board where I used to live, the management company did a reserve study to make sure that there is sufficient funds being saved to repave the parking lot and other things so the money would be there when the time came. I was kind of impressed.

          19. A wise HOA board.

          20. how_it_works Avatar
            how_it_works

            It was the management company, not so much the HOA board. They were wise in hiring a good management company.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          and I agree with you about all agencies and in fact, having that function in-house would be
          a requirement to be eligible for such funding.

    3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      DOC likely has a “plan”. Years ago, when I was at DPB and was the analyst assigned to DOC, I would complain about their relatively low spending on MR. The capital director would show me how every one of the dollars appropriated for MR was committed. So they had a plan. They just could not spend the money they had as quickly as it was appropriated. And the unexpended balance has been building up every since then. My point: stop giving theses agencies money until they have spent what they have.

      By the way, the Code requires agencies to have a six-year capital plan (not including MR) It’s useless.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        At least tell me it’s in an interest bearing account.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          All GF is in a big interest-bearing account. In a way, the failure of these agencies to spend all their GF MR funding contributes to the state’s bottom line.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Who do I contact about investing for them… small fixed fee. 😊

            They should give it to the folks who do UVa’s endowment. We’d own North Carolina in a decade.

          2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            I generalized too much in my comment. I don’t know the details, but the Dept. of Treasury invests the GF balances in a variety of instruments.

      2. I definitely see your point, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the concept.

        However, before ‘defunding’ them, I’d like to know exactly why DOC cannot implement their planned R&R projects, and utilize the money they are given each year.

        Do they not have enough in-house project managers? Do they not know that they can contract project management out to engineering and/or architectural management consultants?

        It baffles me that they can only utilize $10 million in R&R funds every year.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          part of this might be like the probem VDOT has in staging projects, just because you got the money does not mean you can go forward … there may be other pieces and parts involved.

        2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          I need to point out that DOC is not the only culprit. The Community College System has an even lower average annual expenditure. As for figuring out why they can’t do it, that seems to be a job for the Governor’s Chief Transformation Officer: “The Chief Transformation Officer leads change efforts to bring
          business efficiency to government bureaucracy and make government more
          responsive, efficient and transparent for all Virginians.”

          Even if someone figures it out and fixes the process, it would still take DOC, VCCS, and others years to spend down their balances.

        3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          I need to point out that DOC is not the only culprit. The Community College System has an even lower average annual expenditure. As for figuring out why they can’t do it, that seems to be a job for the Governor’s Chief Transformation Officer: “The Chief Transformation Officer leads change efforts to bring
          business efficiency to government bureaucracy and make government more
          responsive, efficient and transparent for all Virginians.”

          Even if someone figures it out and fixes the process, it would still take DOC, VCCS, and others years to spend down their balances.

          1. I need to point out that DOC is not the only culprit.

            Yes. I was picking on DOC as an example, but I have appended one of my previous comments to mention the other culprits you included in your article.

      3. LarrytheG Avatar

        I’d wonder if that is a fairy universal issue with other agencies, companies or if it is an issue with only some while others do better at it.

        For instance, take a McDonalds, Each one operates on a stand-alone basis, revenues/expenses. profit per square foot etc,,

        They’d have to do a pretty good job of estimating building and equipment costs over time if they are going to keep costs under control and accounted for in their total sales.

        McDonalds actually closes some stores when they become untenable financially.

        I’d think important for big-box stores or really any business that sells stuff… they’d have to properly price their products and services to generate enough money to pay for repairs and maintenance and still turn a profit.

        1. Yes, but aren’t you opposed to people who run businesses entering the public sector? 😉

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I must have said that badly because I’m NOT at all opposed to business people entering the public sector. What I’ve said is that govt is not the same as business in all areas. In the area of Capital Improvements, for instance, the public sector does that function and planning for it as they should but the how and why is different from the business sector in which capital improvements are related and tied to operating expenses and profits. Public buildings like schools or govt offices do not need to worry about trading off costs/expenses with bottom line profits but instead the operating costs and meeting code standards, etc. Most McDonalds , and other retail don’t seem to go near as long as public buildings do before they are essentially torn down and rebuilt or a new site…. So.. the functional procedure of capital improvements is the same but the timing and tempo are not.

          2. It’ okay, Larry, I was just teasing you.

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