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Stanley responds to citizen’s letter about tax rate

Dear Editor:

Entering into the position of supervisor for Cumberland County, it became apparent that we had two major challenges: communication and transparency to our citizens. The Board of Supervisors has pledged to be transparent in our operations. We have gone so far as to insist that all departments be prepared to be fully accountable at all times.

Communication, on the other hand, has been a challenge in these unique times of COVID-19 because of virtual meetings and social distancing. After speaking with Mr. Mike Webb, it became apparent that I had failed to adequately communicate the why behind our actions. I am pleased that, after talking with Mr. Webb, he shares our frustration with our financial position and supports our actions.

Mr. Webb suggested that I communicate my reasoning on setting the tax rate at $.77 (cents per $100 valuation). Here goes.

Your new board entered the budget process wide-eyed. Quickly, we realized that we are in a challenging financial situation. Last year the county had a one-time payment from Green Ridge for $500,000.

The previous year, a one-time payment of $750,000 was received to settle the proposed Republic Landfill. This money was directed to the county budget in those years, and is gone. Because of this, we had $500,000 less to spend than last year.

I oppose tax-and-spend policies. We had to deal with the reality of our situation. The county’s past spending policies have come back to roost.

We met with every department to go through their budgets, line-by-line, to reduce expenses. We are creating a procurement process to monitor all spending. We have eliminated capital expenses – no new vehicles for the sheriff’s department; no pay raises for staff; elimination of positions; and postponing maintenance of facilities. We have refinanced the county debt – saving the county $400,000 plus over the life of the loan. Unfortunately, we were forced to fund the school system below their requested funding level.

I am against any tax increases. The reality is, we have bills that must be paid. It is painful, but we are taking steps to ensure our financial future is secure. Dipping into our reserves is an unsustainable financial death spiral. We are limited in our ability to offer tax reductions until we get back on our feet financially. We were able to lower the tax rate from .78 cents to .77 cents. Our hope is, once the uncertainty of the current pandemic has played out, we will be able to bring more tax reductions to Cumberland Citizens.

If District 1 citizens have a concern, I would like to talk with you. Please contact me via email: Bstanley@cumberlandcounty.virginia.gov. Thank you, Mike Webb.

Humbly, a man of my word,

Brian Stanley

Cartersville

Editor’s Note: Brian Stanley is a member of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors.