After three relatively sparsely attended public hearings on County Administrator Tim Hemstreet’s proposed annual county budget, Loudoun supervisors will get to work tonight on the first of many budget work sessions.
Although the number of people who spoke at those budget public hearings was relatively low compared to previous years, familiar and passionate advocates made their voices known, particularly among the county’s human services organizations, nonprofits, and educators.
“I’m here to ask you, to beg you, to please stop,” said Ian Serotkin. He told supervisors his daughter’s elementary school classroom is so overcrowded that the teacher has switched out desks for shared tables.
“I know you guys like to talk about putting more money back in citizens’ pockets, but look, I can’t spend an extra $100 or $200 to make my kids classes less overcrowded,” Serotkin said. “I can’t spend that extra money to fix potholes or widen roads. Please take the money out of my pocket and provide services.”
Few people came to hearings asking supervisors to lower taxes. But many came asking supervisors to provide enough funding for the school system and organizations like ECHO, which helps place people with disabilities in local jobs and provides support for them in those jobs where necessary.
“Educators do not want to work a second or third job, they do not want to qualify for housing assistance or food stamps, they do not want to work 15 or more years to save for a down payment on a home,” said retired teacher Claire Scholz. “… They even want to earn a living wage. Did you hear that? I am ashamed to say I live in a county that does not pay all its full time employees a living wage.”
Supervisors will now go through Hemstreet’s draft budget section by section and department by department, revising it to their liking before a final vote expected April 3. Tonight, supervisors will dig into the budgets for county administration, public affairs, the Commissioner of the Revenue, general services, human resources, information technology, management and budget, and the treasurer’s office. In total, those departments and offices account for $122 million in Hemstreet’s proposed budget, up $11 million from the current year’s adopted budget.
Those departments include several new positions, such as new personal property tax compliance specialists and real estate appraisers for the Commissioner of the Revenue, and new public information officers specializing in transportation issues, human services, and emergency management.