Members of the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad are hoping for some goodwill from members of the Leesburg Town Council this holiday season.
During their work session Monday night, council members considered a request from the organization to forgive the remaining $156,000 owed to the town. That debt was generated via the skate park renovation project next to its Catoctin Circle station.
In 2016, prior to the project beginning construction, the town and the rescue squad signed a Memorandum of Agreement for a boundary line adjustment that would provide space both for an expansion of rescue squad operations on town property and a relocation of the upgraded skate park on adjacent property. The cost to relocate the new skate park, $260,000, was to be borne by the rescue squad through five annual payments. Two of those payments, for a total of $104,000, have been made and the third $52,000 payment is due Dec. 31. But, after the Town Council’s decision to eliminate its annual funding support of the agency, the rescue squad is hoping the town will absorb the remaining amount owed.
As part of its budget process and an overall belt-tightening approach urged by Town Manager Kaj Dentler, the council implemented a plan to phase out the town’s annual contributions to both the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company and the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad over a number of years. Dentler cited a Loudoun County government funding algorithm that was expected to make up that shortfall, with county funds covering the town’s eliminated contribution to the two agencies.
In a July letter to the council, then-LCVRS President James Cromer asked town leaders to consider the impact of that “consequential loss of revenue” to the rescue squad.
“When LCVRS entered into the MOA, it did not have knowledge of the future reduction of funds,” he wrote. “Defunding this program will have a significant impact on our current and future financial obligations.”
Dentler said his understanding, which comes through County Administrator Tim Hemstreet, is that there will be no funding reduction to the rescue squad, with county funding making up for the town’s former annual contribution. He said that if the council agrees to waive the balance owed, that money would have to be made up for in the General Fund.
“This is not just writing it off and it doesn’t show up,” he said. “We will have to make up for this somehow.”
One area that he said town staff would explore is whether $71,000 in proffer contributions from developers can be used to reduce the debt obligation, and allow the remaining debt to be restructured. Councilman Neil Steinberg also suggested reaching out to county leaders to see if they would cover the debt.
But some council members said they were not opposed to forgiving the debt altogether.
“It seems like this year we’ve pulled more money out of a rabbit’s hat for more things,” Councilman Ron Campbell said. “We work with every other situation as a town. I’m asking us as a town to carefully consider what our options might be.”
Dentler said he would return to the council with options at a future meeting, and would also confer with the rescue squad to gauge what options would work best.