At Tuesday’s budget hearing, five residents spoke out against the proposed plan to take Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) and Greenspace funds that currently exist in order to fund stormwater projects.
No one spoke in favor of the plan.
Since Republican supervisors voted in 2008 to eliminate a stormwater fee of just under $5 per household, per month that had brought in about $2 million a year, the county has had to fund the division with general fund dollars. This year, County Administrator Sandy Wanner instead proposes moving $2 million each year from PDR and Greenspace funds to pay for the stormwater projects.
While the county has the Greenspace and PDR money available to use however it sees fit, residents also voted by referendum in 2005 to allow the county to finance an additional $20 million in future debt to preserve land.
At the budget hearing, Supervisor John McGlennon pointed out that some supervisors expected the current balance to be available to pay for future debt incurred through the referendum funds. Read a story on the transfer of Greenspace and PDR money here.
Resident John Haldeman told supervisors at the budget hearing that he didn’t support the idea of transferring the money. “This sleight-of-hand will only make things worse,” he said. He called the plan a “betrayal of voters.” He pointed out supervisors had voted to narrow buffers in 2008, which has added to the flooding problem and stormwater stress in the county, and that the stormwater fee been created to pay for the projects and should not have been eliminated.
The other residents speaking out against the idea agreed, and asked supervisors to either raise taxes, bring back the fee or find another way to fund stormwater projects.
Residents also pleaded with supervisors to preserve some funding for outside agencies and nonprofits in the county in the proposed budget.
Several volunteers and board members with Hospice House asked the county to reconsider its elimination of their funding. Hospice House offers end-of-life care to locals with medical staff and volunteers. This year, for the first time in decades, Hospice is slated to receive no funds from the county. All their other funders have also reduced contributions, and the Hospice Board Chairman explained to supervisors his organization was in dire straits.
Volunteers also were concerned they wouldn’t get back onto the county’s radar even after the recession eases.
The president of the James City County Volunteer Rescue Squad came to ask supervisors not to cut his organization’s funding, either. Though the volunteer rescue squad is losing about one-third of their funding, squad president Paul Reier told supervisors costs are going up. He also pointed out that the county now collects an ambulance fee, which it keeps and for which his organization doesn’t get reimbursed.
The James City/Bruton Volunteer Fire Department was getting level funding, he argued, and so should his organization.
A representative from the Williamsburg Land Conservancy also came to request more funding from supervisors at the meeting.
While representatives from just a handful of organizations came to the hearing to ask supervisors to reconsider, the budget cuts about 10 percent, or $370,000, from the budgets of numerous outside agencies. Charities and nonprofits were cut by about $169,000.
Supervisors will have three work sessions to hammer out changes to the budget. The meetings will be televised, and the first will take place tonight at 7 in building F of the county government complex. The subsequent work sessions will be on May 5 and 6. The budget is set to be adopted on May 11. Read the budget online here.