By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has been undergoing some major personnel changes this year . Prior to the naming of a new executive director due to the dismissal of Stephen Williams, David Blount, the agency’s longtime legislative liaison had been serving as interim director for part of the year.
Annually, Blount meets with the respective localities in the TJPDC and gets their input on a proposed joint legislative agenda. After the initial meetings, he takes the input back reworks the legislative agenda and returns to get each locality’s blessing prior to pursuing the agenda when the General Assembly is in session.
At the Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting on August 12th, Blount gave an update on what is happening in Richmond that has an impact on Greene and the surrounding counties (Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson and the city of Charlottesville) – both from the 2014 Legislative Program and what is in the proposed program for 2015.
In 2014 the emphasis has been on primarily on public education funding – primarily “without making formula and policy changes that shift the funding burden to localities” and that the unfunded liability for the teacher’s retirement plan that “should be a shared responsibility of state and local government”.
In 2015, a major legislative priority emphasis is on giving the counties more tools to generate tax revenue similar to what powers cities and towns now have. Also, he said that School Boards were going to be invited into their process as their budgets are major component of localities expenditures.
After the overview, Blount opened his presentation to the Board Of Supervisors for their comments and questions. Supervisor Davis Lamb, At Large, commented that in the 1990’s and 2000’s like before the recession the state should provide more funding to counties. Blount agreed and stated the equal taxation authority to enable counties to tax like cities and towns is a top issue this coming year.
Chairman Jim Frydl, Midway District, commented on the multiple studies cited by Commission that state that taxes other than property taxes need to be developed. Mr. Blount again agreed with the comment.
Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District, wanted to be clear that Greene County supports other methods of taxing, but is not trying to increase total taxes and wants Richmond to pay their share of the tax burden. Frydl added to the issue that ideally taxes would be assigned by some method based on the cause or driver of the activity as opposed to property taxes as the main source of revenue.
The concluding point that was agreed upon was that while Richmond talks about low taxes and having a reserve fund, this has been accomplished on the backs of counties by pushing unfunded mandates to localities and shifting the cost away from the state with no transfer of any revenue to cover the program.
Lamb along with County Administrator John Barkley both complimented Blount on being very responsive as questions arise throughout the year.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
Photo Credits: Greene County