The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission adopted a plan of work for the remainder of the calendar year at its meeting on May 2. Planned studies include several items of interest to local government, including an important study of K-12 funding for which VACo has provided information to JLARC staff.
JLARC’s planned studies are as follows:
- Virginia Housing: This study follows a broader examination of affordable housing needs in Virginia that was conducted in 2021, and will focus on the management and oversight of Virginia Housing (an independent state authority that works to expand access to affordable housing), to include how effectively Virginia Housing manages its Resources to Enable Affordable Community Housing (REACH) program, which uses a portion of Virginia Housing’s net income to expand affordable housing through homeownership, rental housing, and community outreach. (Planned briefing date: June 2022)
- Progressivity of Virginia’s individual income tax: This study was directed by legislation enacted in 2021 and will examine the progressivity of Virginia’s income tax relative to other states and to the federal income tax, as well as how changes to the state income tax would affect progressivity and state revenues. The resolution directing the study requires JLARC to consider the effects of changes to tax brackets, tax rates, credits, deductions, and exemptions in looking at the state’s individual income tax system. (Planned briefing date: September 2022)
- Regulation of gaming in Virginia: JLARC directed this review earlier this year in light of the expansion of legal gaming in Virginia in past years. Staff are directed to review the roles and responsibilities of the three state agencies that currently oversee different types of gaming in Virginia and consider advantages and disadvantages of consolidating gaming regulation into one agency. (Planned briefing date: October 2022)
- Prepaid529 surplus funds: This study will examine the degree to which surplus funds in the Prepaid529 program could be repurposed to support higher education access and affordability. (Planned briefing date: October or November 2022)
- Higher education financial aid and dual enrollment funding: This study will review student financial aid policies, criteria, and policies at the state’s public four-year institutions, to include an assessment of the adequacy and equity of financial aid funding across institutions and the effectiveness of financial aid at lowering costs for students. The study will also examine the costs to provide dual enrollment courses, the extent to which tuition covers those costs, to what extent dual enrollment credits are successfully transferred, and how well institutions share data about students who complete dual enrollment courses or transfer between institutions. (Planned briefing date: November 2022)
- Impact of COVID-19 on K-12 students, staff, and operations: This study, directed by the General Assembly last year, will review the effects of pandemic-related restrictions on in-person learning on student achievement and well-being, the effect of the pandemic on staffing levels, projected changes in enrollment, programs to address learning loss, and preparedness for future pandemics or other crises that would disrupt in-person learning. (Planned briefing date: November 2022)
- Community Services Boards system: This study will review the efficiency and effectiveness of the current structure of delivering public community-based behavioral health, substance use disorder, and developmental disability services through the Community Services Boards, to include whether mandated services reflect the greatest behavioral health needs, and whether staffing and funding levels are adequate. Members discussed the importance of workforce recruitment, retention, and compensation as an area of research in the study, as well as the intersection of behavioral health and the criminal justice system. (Planned briefing date: December 2022)
- K-12 Standards of Quality funding formula: This study was directed by the General Assembly in 2021 and directs JLARC to estimate the true costs of implementing the Standards of Quality based on actual prevailing practice, determine if the Standards of Quality accurately reflect actual standards of practice, analyze changes in the funding formula since 2009 and their effect on how accurately the funding formula reflects actual costs, and recommend funding formula changes “to ensure that state support is neither inadequate nor excessive.” VACo has met with JLARC staff to assist with study research and looks forward to continuing to participate in this important review of state support for public education. (Planned briefing date: 2023)
JLARC will also receive regular updates on its areas of ongoing evaluation and oversight, to include reports on the Virginia Retirement System (scheduled for July and December), state economic development incentives (scheduled for June and December), and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (scheduled for September).
JLARC members also received a briefing from the Auditor of Public Accounts, Staci Henshaw, with an update on her office’s work in the last year and plans for the upcoming fiscal year. She noted that some localities have been delayed in submitting information required for the compilation of the Comparative Report of Local Government Revenues and Expenditures, which may be attributable to a number of factors, including cybersecurity attacks, staffing issues, and frequently-changing accounting standards; during the discussion on this portion of her report, legislators expressed interest in exercising “leverage” to require more prompt reporting.