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Board to Vote Tuesday on Whether to Ban Discretionary Funds

If passed, supervisors won't be able to decide where extra money can be spent.

Pending a vote on Tuesday, how the Board of County Supervisors uses district office funds, also known as discretionary or "slush" funds, could be very different. 

Each supervisor is allocated money to pay for office expenses and to hire staff, but as the policy stands now, the supervisor can use leftover money for other purposes. The excess money is frequently used as donation for nonprofit causes in the county. 

Freshman supervisor Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) has spearheaded the effort on banning the use of discretionary funds. On May 15, Candland proposed a resolution to ban the use of “slush funds” in the offices of county supervisors 

In his e-newsletter, Candland proposed that any leftover money in the discretionary column be given back to the county budget or assigned to the pre-approved Capital Improvement Project to “eliminate even the appearance of impropriety and to hold the Board of County Supervisor[s] up to a higher level of accountability.”

“In recent years, it has become common practice on the Board for individual Supervisors to 'donate' this excess money to private and non-profit organizations,” wrote Candland. “While many of these organizations perform worthwhile services in the community, there is the appearance that Supervisors donate money to these groups for political gain.”

Use of district funds came under heat when Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington was slated to give $100,00 of his district funds to his wife’s equestrian charity, Rainbow Therapeutic Equestrian Center. 

Covington then pulled his intent to donate the money. 

The rules that Candland proposes include a ban on using district office expense funds on:

  • “Cash or in-kind donations to any non-governmental organization or any governmental entity that is the recipient of appropriated funds in the Prince William County budget”
  • Sponsoring events “or for advertising in any publications associated with those events. Funds can be used to purchase a single ticket for admission to events for the individual District Supervisor.”

“Let me be clear, my proposal doesn’t ban money from going to worthwhile and legitimate causes that demonstrate they can provide a needed service for the people of Prince William County,” wrote Candland in the e-newsletter. “We have several opportunities during the budget process to allocate money to these organizations with the same scrutiny that is applied to the expenditure of all taxpayer funds.”   

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31) announced Saturday that he will introduce legislation in the 2013 General Assembly to restrict local governmental boards from having discretionary funds that are not otherwise included in the budget of a locality at the time the budget is adopted.  

"I don't think it's right to provide politicians with money that they can hand out or expend on just about anything they want," said Lingamfelter in a prepared statement.  "While I know they have to put each item before the board for a vote, most times this is just a formality. A more disciplined approach is required.”

The board will vote in the 2 p.m. meeting during supervisors’ time.

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