Making A Request

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – A blinking exit sign on the east end of the meeting room flickered to its own syncopated beat as speaker after speaker came before the board to the lectern.

It is an annual rite in Prince Edward. Entities that function or even survive with the donations of local governments have five minutes to make a pitch, often detailing what they do in the community and how great the need is.

They don't have to come, of course, but it's a chance to explain what they offer to the community, and share their need for funds.

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“…They all do good things,” County Administrator Wade Bartlett assesses at the early-in-the-process budget work session. “There's not a single one…in here that don't provide a good service to the county residents. The question is-it's a question of priorities of the whole budget. And then a second question some people ask is is that an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars to…fund some charitable organizations?”

Prince Edward is, of course, not alone in such an exercise. Ultimately, it's up to the board of supervisors to determine what organization will be funded at what level.

Some Requests

“Good afternoon,” offers STEPS Executive Director Sharon Harrup, at the Tuesday work session. “First of all, I'm here to thank you for the support that you all have so graciously given us over the past number of years. I will also tell you that I've been with STEPS for almost 23 years and the past 12 months for us has been the most challenging and financial struggling that I've endured in my 23 years. So your support is even more vital now than it has been in the past.”

STEPS, or Southside Training, Employment and Placement Services, (according to their website) provides employment and related services to individuals with diverse abilities.

STEPS, Harrup details, receives no direct operational money from the state or federal governments. They operate from local contributions, are able to sell job-training services to vendors in the community, and production related services.

Job training and employment activities in Prince Edward include the recycling center (which is 100 percent run by individuals with disabilities), a secure document shredding business, and the STEPS Centre (a convention and civic center).

STEPS has asked for level funding from Prince Edward, or $27,232.

Times are tough as localities struggle with growing needs, challenging funding, and keeping tax rates in check. Agencies, dependent on even small donations, often come with appreciation for what the county has provided in the past, but face their own struggles as they look to the future.

And at least steady funding, though few go still further out on a limb to ask for more money than the previous year.

In all, the County budgeted $1,054,583 for outside organizations for the current budget year. If all were funded as requested, that figure would be $1,212,219 in the next budget cycle.

A big part of that involves the firefighters association-or over $500,000.

Fire departments, that must fund costly equipment and vehicles, receive $53,000 for operations and $15,000 for equipment annually. They have requested a ten percent increase, or $58,300 for operations and $16,500 for equipment.

The Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, which has creative events planned, seeks level funding, $2,494. Among the plans for the year, they have scheduled an exhibition with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which will feature 35 years of music history with documentary photography; there will also be a full stage with operating instruments for children to make their own albums and documentary photography.

The PE-Farmville Youth Association seeks a four percent increase, from $24,000 to $25,000. Funding from last year was used to pay off a loan for a new soccer field, for utilities maintenance, upkeep and equipment for sports and bought new baseball and softball equipment with part of the money. The current request would aim for improvement to the baseball and softball facility and indoor gym, and continue with soccer field development.

Habitat for Humanity also hopes for an increase from $4,750 to $6,500. Director Jayne Johnson details that they've completed three new homes since last she met with the board and hope to complete another by the end of June. In addition, they are doing a pilot test of sorts on rehabilitating some homes and hope to implement a “Brush With Kindness” program in July to help those who own or are buying their home with repairs.

Johnson also details services provided to the community in addition to building homes.

Southside Center for Violence Prevention (Madeline's House)-offering a shelter for battered women-asks for level funding, $7,500.

In all, some 43 different departments, agencies or groups seek County contributions.

The Prince Edward County After-Prom organizers are seeking level funding, or $950; Jolly Glee Senior Citizens have asked for an increase from the $1,800 to $2,500.

Collectively, it's a small percentage of the County's overall budget picture. (The current year's budget, as approved, totaled $50,953,192 including state, federal and local revenues. It also factored a $25,666,080 school budget that included $8,106,652 in local funds.)

Prince Edward is relatively late coming to the budget table. Some of its neighbors have advertised proposed budgets. In the previous budget session, Bartlett presented a budget proposal that called for no tax increase, level school funding and mostly level funding for area agencies and entities that are seeking the funds.


The plan would eliminate funding for HOPE ($9,500 is in the current budget), which no longer runs the Head Start program but continues other services. Its Executive Director, Kitty Smith, was on hand to detail program offerings and field questions.

Bartlett has also recommended library funding be reduced to fiscal year 2011 levels of $166,559, or a reduction of $25,597. The library has requested an increase over the $192,156 funded last year, or $207,507.

Library Director Peggy Epperson detailed statistical information looking at revenue per capita versus visits per capita and hours open per week.

“So you can see this reinforces the point that I was trying to make the last time I talked to the board of supervisors, which is the services that we offer totally exceed the resources that we've been given to offer those services,” Epperson said.

She adds, “I'm here to speak on behalf of the thousands of community residents who depend on the public library for information services and have no other way to access them.”

The board didn't delve deeply into the reasons behind the proposed cuts. Supervisors are expected to continue their budget work next Tuesday.