Supervisor Banks Discusses Budget

Published 1:56 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Editor, The Herald:

This is an open letter to the Cumberland County School system:

Dear Dr. Griffin and Members of the Cumberland County School Board:

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I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts on the County budget development for 2013-14. This is a very important matter and I wanted to openly communicate my thoughts with those directly affected by my decisions. Below are my personal thoughts as one elected official and these are in no way a representation of the broader Board of Supervisors.

In serving the citizens of D2 as their elected representative, my first responsibility is to be an advocate of their interests to the best of my ability. I was not elected to make decisions for them, but to pool their thoughts and represent their desires as their choice on a local governing board.

Since my election in November of 2011, the overwhelming priority communicated by my constituents has been to not raise their taxes. This is the leading reason why I was elected and I have an obligation to hold this as their top priority.

Another leading factor in my election was my professional background which includes 25 years of experience with budget and finance within federal and state government. Our County is encumbered with excessive debt and we have to take a balanced and practical approach with our local spending. I have communicated frequently that properly managing the government is much like managing our individual households. We all have limited personal finances and we must arrive at a plan for living within our means, or eventually face bankruptcy. As a County, sadly we are closer to insolvency than many would ever imagine. This was most apparent when a recent solicitation for refinancing of County debt resulted in a bona fide proposal from only one lender. There are hundreds of private lenders and only one was seriously interested in assuming our local liability. This spoke volumes concerning our financial outlook and our need to reform local spending!

Thirdly, behind not raising our taxes and ensuring that we live within our means, I believe it goes without question that the D2 community wants the best school system reasonably possible.

In properly preparing for any budget development, the first step is the establishment of desired priorities, goals, and constraints. With this knowledge, my general approach towards development of the 2013-14 budget will be:

1) not to raise taxes,

2) not to exceed our projected revenue flow (avoid creating debt or exhausting reserves),

3) fund the school the best we reasonably can (this will include being an advocate for at least level funding with the current year),

4) try to reduce expenditures on the County Admin side to offset known new expenses (regional jail, health insurance and benefit increases, etc).

I believe this is the most balanced and practical approach available to deal with a very difficult dynamic. We have a County burdened with excessive debt, an economy limping along at best, and a small poor community that can't afford federal, state, and local tax increases.

Within the 2012-13 budget, the Board of Supervisors approved a considerable increase in the local school budget of several hundred thousand dollars. If there is the expectation that a similar increase can be sustained each and every year, this type of funding is simply not available in the current economic climate. An annual increase of this nature would be an expansion of spending that is beyond what the community could reasonably bear.

Being a strong proponent of education, my professional career involves personally managing a $30+ million budget at the University of Virginia. Additionally I serve on the Board of Visitors of Norfolk State University and play a key role in the oversight of a large state budget there as well. While it is no one's desire to have education suffer, at all levels we are faced with funding constraints and especially locally with preK-12.

As in the past I will continue to be a strong advocate for our educational systems and gladly engage our local school leadership on an ongoing basis. These are difficult times and there is no substitute for an open and concerted effort towards a balanced approach in meeting all of our County needs.

Lloyd Banks

Cumberland County D2 Supervisor