The first two public hearings on the Loudoun’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget have been relatively quiet as the county enjoys a flush budget position allowing it to catch up service shortfalls that have built up over years of lean, post-recession revenues.
Only seven people signed up to speak at board’s second budget hearing, held at 3 p.m. Thursday. Of those, only six showed up.
Supporters of Every Citizen Has Opportunity, Inc. and other employment services continued their push to protect additional positions that that provide job opportunities for residents with mental and physical disabilities. Although more than a hundred people have jobs through ECHO, others have been on the 28-person-long waiting list for as long as two years, according to ECHO representatives.
“As high school graduation quickly approaches, this number is expected to grow,” said Jodi Kinney of Middleburg.
Affordable Housing as Economic Development
Windy Hill Foundation Executive Director Kim Hart asked the Board of Supervisors to fund an idea which appears far down a list of needs that didn’t fit into County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. Hiring two new employees would allow the county to move affordable housing land development policies and regulation out of the county’s Department of Family Services.
Hart said there has been a “big change” in affordable and workforce housing in recent years.
“For the first time, workforce housing is being seen as being connected to and important to economic development,” Hart said. He pointed out that affordable housing “as a means to support a vibrant economy” now appears in the county’s strategic plan.
Supervisors, particularly Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian), have pushed hard to tackle Loudoun’s affordable housing shortage, and have already made some changes to the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit program to increase opportunities to secure grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Virginia Housing Development Authority. Supervisors are now discussing whether to transfer management of its affordable housing program to the Department of Economic Development.
Hart said those two new county positions are important.
“First, it is an advocate inside the county to help this whole process move along,” Hart said. “Second, it is someone inside the county staff that can write the policies necessary to make this all work. But third, and most importantly, you have to have staff that know what they’re doing to run the big housing trust fund.”
The county has a $24 million housing trust fund, and it would not be unusual, according to Hart, to multiply to leverage that money with grants and other funding by as much as 20-to-1.
“If you even get ten-to-one leverage on $24 million, that’s $240 million,” Hart said, with which he said the county can do a lot.
The Board of Supervisors will hold one final budget public Saturday, March 4 at 9 a.m. at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn. The board is expected to make a final vote on the budget Tuesday, April 4.