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VACo General Assembly Report

CUMBERLAND – With the new fiscal year underway, Cumberland County's Board of Supervisors recently heard from the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) about work completed during the last General Assembly session.

For most on the Board it signified the end of their first budget cycle.

Ted McCormack, director of government affairs for VACo, addressed the Board and said, “VACo really exists to support County officials and to effectively represent, promote and protect the interest of the counties to better serve the people of Virginia.”

That's the mission at VACo, he told Cumberland's supervisors, and added, “That's what we do on your behalf as much as possible.”

McCormack was in attendance to express VACo's appreciation to Cumberland for the County's work during the General Assembly.

The high points of the General Assembly, legislation, and the budget include such things as a reduction in the local aid to the state government that each locality must send back each year.

“Some of them were victories and some of them were stopping things from happening,” he offered. “Some of them were making things less bad and we kind of consider that a victory, too.”

For the past few years, the local aid to the state government totaled $60 million, said McCormack.

“We were able to convince the Governor to put it in his budget, and it stayed in there, that the amount would be reduced over the next biennium's to $50 million and $45 million,” he said. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that next year they won't try to up it back up to $60 million.”

The line of duty act, which affects local counties, was created to assist emergency services personnel, said McCormack, and was given back to the localities to fund from the state.

“We realize that we will never get them to take it back,” he said, “because of the cost involved. But we've been working over the last two years with the administration and the General Assembly so that, now, if you opt out of the state's program and choose to go with another insurance provider…you do not have to pay the state to administer the program…Prior to this year, if you opted out of the state's program and went on your own you still had to pay the Commonwealth of Virginia 10 percent of the administration fee. We got them to do away with that administration fee…”

Another VACo accomplishment, noted McCormack, was the phasing in of the employee-mandated raises for the employee share of VRS for the school divisions and local governments.

“There was no phase in for local government employees,” he said.

Additional funding was also put back into the state's budget for the cooperative extension service, he added.

VACo was also successful in the area, McCormack noted, related to the mandate requiring localities to build or renovate the courthouse when the Circuit Court judge says “he feels like he needs a new courthouse.”

“On balance, we feel like the session was fairly successful on counties thanks in large part to the support of Cumberland County,” offered McCormack, “and the 95 other counties in Virginia…whether you picked up the phone…you helped us do our job and we're most appreciative of that. We endeavor to keep you informed of what's going on in the Capital.”

According to the presentation, VACo is already developing its legislative priorities for 2013.

“We have to start the process again,” he said. “…We will start soliciting ideas, thoughts, or concerns from the Counties.”

After receiving input from each County it's then considered during the development of a draft legislative program for VACo.

“Once finalized, that document forms the basis-that is our backbone,” he offered about how the priorities are developed for each General Assembly session. “That is what we give to the General Assembly saying “here's what our concerns are and here's what you are going to hear from us…'”