Letter to the Editor: Prince Edward needed to seek help

Published 5:38 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

Dear Editor,

In a recent letter, Paul Xavier criticized Prince Edward County’s decision to hire a lobbyist to help try to persuade the General Assembly to allow a sales tax referendum. I disagree, but want to commend him for nonetheless acknowledging that supporting a sales tax referendum for school repairs is probably the best way forward. I hope those in our community who oppose the lobbyist decision will keep a similarly open mind about the referendum itself.

I happen to support the County’s decision here to seek help. In the recent past, a low 5-figure investment over two years helped secure a 7-figure state appropriation to support the jail – a very good return. The sales tax issue is particularly complicated right now in Richmond and needs expert assistance to navigate it successfully. That means making sure the governor and General Assembly understand this not a partisan issue – it’s about basic fairness and local choice, and makings sure Prince Edward citizens have the same choices and tools as citizens elsewhere in the Commonwealth when it comes to fixing our schools. Mr. Xavier’s call for accountability on this investment is fair. But Virginia localities that make the effort to succeed in Richmond regularly end up taking from localities that don’t. We can’t afford to be a victim.

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Prince Edward needs to fight for an important right to chart our own course when it comes to raising tax revenue – a right the General Assembly has given to a dozen or so other localities but denied to our county, for no good reason whatsoever. Now that a lobbyist is secure, I hope we can all join in hoping the effort is successful, and in asking our elected officials to fight for it, too.  If not, the entire burden of our urgently needed school repairs will fall on county property owners through real estate taxes, to the tune of millions of dollars. Other localities have been given a chance to vote to fix their schools using a tool that spreads the bill more evenly and fairly – and have already used it to fix their school buildings. We deserve a chance to make that choice, too.

Justin Pope