9/4 Editorial: King William needs to prioritize its funding decisions

12:26 PM EDT, September 4, 2013


King William County's recent funding decisions are questionable.

Prioritization, communication, and explanations have been lacking

A budget decision made earlier this year to cut funding to Bay Aging and Bay Transit will soon end up costing county citizens.

Last week, Bay Aging President and CEO Kathy Vesley-Massey presented a variety of numbers to the Board of Supervisors.

These numbers showed that because the Board chose to cut the agency's budget by over $22,000 for FY14 numerous county residents will be left without transportation and possibly hot meals.

These cuts mean the elimination of Bay Transit rides for 20 people per day, 80 per week, and over 2,000 nutritional meals for the county's elderly.

These impacts beg the question whether or not the Board completely considered the ramifications of its actions when it chose to cut these funds?

Supervisor Tommy Redd said he was against the cuts and he knew there would be an impact but had no idea the severity

The decision was made during one of the Board's many budget work sessions this past spring.

Later in the budget process, as funding became available, Redd said he motioned that the Board reinstate the $12,000 that was cut from Bay Transit but the motion was denied.

Redd said instead the Board voted to provide an additional $17,000 to Parks and Recreation, to what Redd called a "baby-sitting service" at last week's meeting.

The Parks and Recreation already has an inflated budget of close to $300,000 and is not as self-supporting as some claim.

The Board has also chose to fund several additional items since the budget has been approved, including a new employment position.

Last week, just after hearing the impacts of the budget cuts to Bay Aging and Bay Transit, the Board voted to approve a new finance position. The position will cost the county an additional $30,000. Part of the position will be paid for by using around $15,000 from a vacant position in the Commissioner of Revenue's office, for a total cost to the county of around $50,000 after benefits are added into the equation. The position is supposed to assist the Commissioner and finance department.

Is that position necessary? No, the office already has a finance manager who assists the county administrator and the county administrator already has two other executive assistants.

How much assistance does one county need?

The funding for the new position is expected to come from the county's contingency fund, which according to Finance Manager Troy Bingham is set at a current balance of $268,703.

If the county can come up with approximately $50,000 to fund a new unnecessary position why couldn't it to fill Bay Aging and Bay Transit's request and level-fund these vital programs?

Cutting those funds defeats the goal of public transit, which Vesley-Massey said is to provide an affordable means for keeping people employed so they can contribute to the county through taxes and lower welfare costs.

Riders use the transit service mainly for employment. Others use it for retail, education, and healthcare.

The transit and the meals are not free. Riders pay an affordable fee for the use of the transit buses and those with means to pay for the meals, do so, but the county's contribution on behalf of its citizens helps keep those costs low.

There are no other public providers in the region and private providers can be expensive, with some costing as much as $30 for one ride to Rappahannock Community College in Glenns.

According to Vesley-Massey, the funding formula for public transportation operating costs in Virginia is based on 50 percent from Federal Transportation Administration; 15 percent from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; and 35 percent from counties receiving services.

Spending an additional $12,000 on services that have such a vital impact on a citizen's day-to-day life is not a lot of money when you consider what other items on which taxpayer money is spent.

For some, Bay Aging and Bay Transit are a matter of life or death. These people may have mental challenges, illnesses, or simply cannot afford a vehicle. Others could be elderly or disabled and need to take a weekly shopping trip to Food Lion like all the rest of us.

And, Meals on Wheels can often ensure that no frail and older adults will go hungry.

As Supervisor Terry Stone said at last week's meeting, the county has a laundry list of needs and tough decisions to make. Items need to be prioritized. Let's get the list started now with Bay Aging and Bay Transit, and serve residents well.