Supervisors to discuss funding cuts

Published 1:44 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Prince Edward County supervisors will have a special called meeting Tuesday to consider funding of outside organizations.

The meeting was called by Farmville 101 District Supervisor and Board Chairman Howard Simpson and Prospect District Supervisor the Rev. Dr. Calvin Gray.

The meeting comes more than two weeks after Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairman Brad Watson scolded supervisors for not promoting economic development, cutting outside agency budgets and not partnering with other entities to create jobs and bring new businesses to the county.

Rev. Dr. Calvin Gray

Rev. Dr. Calvin Gray

During the board’s FY 2016-17 budget adoption process, supervisors agreed to cut all funding to Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) and reduced the county’s funding of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Longwood University Small Business Development Center.

Simpson said he wants supervisors to consider “level-funding” the three entities.

“We need to consider the economic development part of it,” Simpson said. “The business-type things that try to get business in the county.”

“Individuals go over there for truck-driving classes, welding classes, they get a degree in it, nursing, they get a degree in it, things like that that helps the people in the county to get jobs and stay here in the county,” Simpson said of SVCC.

He also wants supervisors to look at organizations “that benefit the county.”

Watson, a senior vice president at the Farmville office of Davenport and Company LLC, who made his comments during the May chamber meeting, highlighted the budget cuts to Southside Virginia Community College, the chamber and the Longwood University Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Supervisors agreed to level fund the Crossroads Community Services Board, the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library, Meals on Wheels, Piedmont Senior Resources, FACES and the Hampden Sydney First Responders, veering from the recommended across-the-board 20 percent budget cuts for outside agencies.

“Well, to me, I think … we should at least level-fund them of what we did last year,” Simpson said of the college, chamber and business development center.

At the chamber meeting, Watson urged members to “join me in demanding that Prince Edward County do everything it can to make people want to stay here and want to move here,” Watson said. “…Demand they partner with the Town of Farmville, with the community college, with the small business development center, with Downtown Farmville, with the chamber to do more than they could do on their own. …”

Simpson said the county must “work with your organizations and all to get business to come in … Once we start cutting all of our economic development … the people (who are) looking, to me, they’re not going to come here looking because they see that you’re not supporting your economic development people and all,” Simpson said.

Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons, who proposed some of the cuts during the budget process, said, “Last year, our budget was roughly $1 million or $1.1 million more than what our revenue was, which we basically had to take that much out of our fund balance to manage the county’s finances. You just can’t continue doing that.”

He said the board’s goal this year was to have a “true balanced budget and not raise the taxes. The tax did go up 2 cents, but that was just as a result of levelizing the taxes from our reassessment a year ago.”

During his comments, Watson said he pondered what Prince Edward County had been doing to promote economic development. “I thought and I thought and I thought. Then I found out the answer was, in the last eight years, virtually nothing. I’m not making a joke. That’s true.”

Watson said he was speaking of business and industry recruited by the county, not firms that came on their own.

“It looks like the first people that need our help are in our room today. Over the past few years, Prince Edward County has cut funding in part or in full to nearly every organization that could help us grow economically. They have funded groups that help the poor and downtrodden, and they should. The groups need help, but everybody else has been cut. No investment.”

Said Simpson: “I hope we can get something done. I’m keeping my finger’s crossed.”