By. Kara L. Reese
Greene County Field Officer
September 23, 2008
The Greene County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing with Representative Robert “Rob” Bell and State Senator Emmett Hanger on Tuesday, September 23, 2008. The hearing allowed Board Members, County Constitutional Officers and Greene County residents to voice their concerns about continued cuts to state funding. Of particular concern to Board Members and residents alike were unfunded mandates such as the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA).
After welcomes and opening remarks, the Board of Supervisors opened the floor to members of the public for comment. Nine members of the public addressed Belland Hanger. First to speak was Randy Corpening, Director of Special Services for Greene County Schools. He noted that the funding requirements for CSA will cripple the County. Currently, three students make up the majority of county spending on CSA. The president of the Greene County Taxpayers also addressed unfunded mandates calling on the legislature to either fully fund mandates or cut them. Andrea Wilkinson of the Ruckersville Citizens Council addressed unfunded mandates as well. Other citizens addressed issues such as lack of funding for transportation, repealing the Dillon Rule and alternatives that the legislature could approve to allow localities to raise funds.
Several County Officerswere present at the meeting including Sheriff Scott Haas, Treasurer Gail Barry, Clerk of Court Marie Durrer, School Superintendent David Jeck and School Board Members Graydon Lamb and Troy Harlow. Superintendent Jeck addressed the recent memorandums the State has issued regarding funding cuts. He understands that times are tough, but is not sure how the school can cut costs and meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind which is currently only funded at 56% of actual cost.
Sheriff Haas acknowledged that there had been bills passed that directly benefited Greene law enforcement and thanked both Bell and Hanger for those efforts. He noted that there is still a problem with the regional jail. If Greene County loses its exemption, it will lose approximately $150,000. He also noted that on days when Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court is held two bailiffs are needed, but only one is funded.
Marie Durrer Clerk of the Circuit Court spoke briefly and proposed that additional criminal fees be assessed to offset jail costs.
Both Hanger and Bell made brief statements in response to public comment. Bell stated that he was willing to work toward cutting programs that the people really do not want. However, citizens need to realize this will result in a cut in services. Hanger noted that he believes Virginia should opt out of No Child Left Behind. He also noted that CSA causes huge budgetary problems.
Each Board Member was given an opportunity to address issues that concerned them. Carl Schmitt (At Large) noted that we are all hurting financially and hopes that we can use this economic pressure to draw back on programs we don’t want. He asked that if the State Legislature can’t fund a program that they not mandate it. Finally, he called on politicians to partisanship be set aside. He would like to see all candidates run independent of a party.
Mike Skeens (Monroe) noted that No Child Left Behind is killing the schools. He observed that state budget cuts were having a negative impact on the schools. He would like to have closer communication between the Board and politicians in Richmond.
Jeri Allen (Ruckersville) made three points. First, she stated that it was CSA that keeps her awake at night. It is scary to realize that just one child could force the Board to raise property tax by 2 or 3 cents. Second, she noted how hard they have worked to improve Greene’s financial situation. She worries that the composite index may undo everything they have done. Third, she noted that when the Board goes through the budget they often have to make tough cuts such as not funding the youth center and youth baseball.
Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) noted that the recent audit indicates something must be done because the County’s reserve is less the $300,000. More cuts to programs are coming including the Library and JABA. He also noted that water is a crucial issue, but it is hard to move forward when DEQ places a roadblock in every path.
Chairman Steve Catalano (At Large) pointed out that the county runs a tight ship. “We can say no to anything.” He noted that the Board is feeling very frustrated and asked that the legislature give use tools to generate revenue. He believes that the real estate system does not work and leaves the county vulnerable to the market. He does not feel the County can raise real estate taxes anymore. He also commented on CSA calling it a “budget buster.” He stated that it’s a tough situation because we like children and have hearts. But it is not right raise taxes to a point that productive and self supporting citizens are forced to sell their homes for the sake of one or two children.
In his brief closing remarks Bell noted that budget cuts are gong to hit the county. He would like to work on the state mandate issue. Hanger also indicated budget woes are likely to continue, noting that one county had lost 30% of its real estate revenue this year.
Two members of the public gave an impassioned plea for the Board not to close the dental clinic. Sharon Reed noted that the clinic is actually making money. She also indicated that it is one of the few Medicaid providers in the area. Further, the clinic is booked into next year. She asked that volunteer dentists be recruited until a new full time dentist is found. S. Catalano responded that the county would like to privatize the clinic and they are looking into other options.
The Board passed their consent agenda, and then moved on to other matters.
J. Allen reported that the Planning Commission had officially begun work on the Comprehensive Plan. She also noted that the Stanardsville Reenactment had been successful. The Discover Virginia Wine Festival had not been as successful as previous years, possibly due to the competition from other events on Labor Day Weekend.
C. Schmitt commented on a recent conference he had attended on energy and climate change. He stated that we are coming to a breaking point with fossil fuels and that the County should work on energy efficiency.
S. Catalano discussed the Rescue Squad’s investigation into potential revenue recovery. He needs to apply for a Medicaid/Medicare number now, because of the amount of time it takes for the application to be processed. J. Allen moved that the Board permit S. Catalanoto apply for the Medicaid/Medicare number. The motion passed 4-0 with S. Catalano abstaining.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:55 pm.