A year-long debate over the operations of the town’s 15 advisory boards, committees, and commissions appointed by the Leesburg Town Council ended Tuesday night with few changes being made.
Like the county Board of Supervisors a few years ago, the council launched the exercise with the goal of paring down the number of committees to increase efficiency, save staff time and reduce costs. Like the county effort, it ended with a conclusion that the input provided by the advisory panels is valuable, albeit underutilized by government leaders.
The review began during the Town Council’s January 2017 planning retreat and potential changes were discussed at eight meetings during the year.
Nine proposed changes were agreed to in July and were the subject of a public hearing Tuesday night. Among those were to eliminate stipend payments—typically $100 per month—made to members of most of the advisory boards, and to merge the Tree Commission with the Environmental Advisory Committee.
While they seemed like good ideas to council members last summer, those changes were voted down Tuesday night. Members of the EAC and the Tree Commission objected to merging the groups, telling the council their areas of responsibility and community involvement were significantly different.
Also, the council backed off the plan to convert money earmarked for advisory committee members stipends into a single pot of money allocated to each committee to support its work. In rejecting that change, Town Attorney Barbara Notar said the committees would have, as they do now, the option of members taking a monthly payment or not.
Other changes got unanimous support, including one reducing the expectation that council members assigned to each advisory committee would be obligated to attend the meetings, and the one to formally disband the long-dormant Utility Rate Advisory Committee,
Although few significant changes resulted from the yearlong effort, council members said they came away with a better understanding of—and appreciation for—the support provided by the residents and business leaders who serve on the panels.