As nature changes its season to fall, in politics, we pivot into the season of budget development for the next fiscal year. And, like hearing the yip of coyotes in the distance, local politicians once again hear the gloom and doom of how Amherst County doesn’t “do” anything and taxpayers get nothing for their money. Allow me to offer a little hope.
The county has ample emergency, contingency, committed and assigned funding accounts beyond its need for operations funding. Some think it is more important to build an ever-increasing bank balance than to put the people’s money to use. I do not. The supervisors have been applying resources to fix the accumulation of neglect and improve things, such as:
» All schools have new roofs, HVAC systems and LED lighting, saving more than $350,000 per year in utility costs. The public schools’ budget was fully funded and teachers received a 5 percent raise. SOL scores continue to improve, and all schools are fully accredited. School discipline cases continue to decline; vocational programs in the schools are expanding and internships to seniors are increasing.
» Public Safety vehicles are being replaced on a normal rotation, and volunteer incentives are in place and working for our firefighters.
» The Monroe school building is open and being put to full-time use by Recreation & Parks Department, while the Pleasant View school was sold while other vacant schools in the region sit vacant swallowing funds for maintenance and utility costs.
» Riveredge Park provides canoe/kayak/inner tube rentals and float trips, and there are five new playgrounds at county parks. Riveredge Trail stretches ever longer toward connecting to bridges across the James River; Mill Creek Lake is open to public swimming; and restrooms at Monacan Park are refurbished.
» The county website and county GIS system was updated for ease of access to information.
» The landfill closing will result in greater efficiency in trash handling and remove our exposure to regulatory fines and litigation and lower costs to citizens. Construction of a new convenience center on U.S. 60 West will allow removal of open container eyesores.
» A financial policy is now in place to provide funds for future capital projects and keep reserves healthy.
» New apartment buildings are going up in Madison Heights; there are more sidewalks in Town and Madison Heights; a $1.2M grant for Old Town Madison Heights improvements is underway; derelict homes are being demolished — most at owners’ expense and the process to ticket unsightly yards and buildings has been streamlined and violators are successfully prosecuted.
» Second Stage is succeeding as a community center and economic development incubator.
» The second Amherst County Fair was a huge success, and plans are underway to relocate to a permanent fairgrounds at Winton to include more animal activities, 4H, concerts and other events.
» Camp Trapezium Brewery in the Town of Amherst will be the only water-driven brewery in the nation.
We have pursued grants and partners to keep the cost of these improvements as low as possible. Yet, the cost of doing everything rises higher every year. The question always remains: “Is there a better use for the money than sitting in the bank?” Opinions differ and arriving at these decisions among five elected members of the Board Supervisors can be challenging.
But remember this: The world is run by people who show up. The Board of Supervisors have two meetings per month; one at 7 p.m. and one at 1 p.m. If you have a question or a suggestion, contact us! Remember that you elected your board members — not the county administrator. He can only do what the board instructs him to do or approves; he cannot impact the tax rate at all. Only the supervisors can do that.
Griping on Facebook and repeating incorrect information is not helpful. If you don’t like your current board, put in the work to replace them with a candidate who will do better, and that includes me. My term is up in 2021. I love being on the board and feel that we have made great strides but there’s a lot of work to do. Join in. Tell us what you think!
Tucker, who lives in Temperance, represents District 2 on the Amherst County Board of Supervisors. Email her at email@example.com.