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Proposal on funds applauded
‘Local aid to commonwealth’ may be kept out of budget

Friday, December 21, 2012

Two local officials said this week they were a bit surprised — pleasantly — to hear that Gov. Bob McDonnell wants the state to stop forcing cities and counties to give back some of their annual state funding.

Henry County and Martinsville officials have said the practice — which local officials statewide loosely call “local aid to the commonwealth” — is unfair, considering the state now is seeing budget surpluses.

Budget revisions that McDonnell presented Monday to the 2013 General Assembly’s budget-writing committees do away with the $45 million that state officials planned to require Virginia cities and counties to return.

The House and Senate ultimately will decide whether localities get to keep the money.

But the governor’s action is “certainly welcome,” said Henry County Deputy Administrator Dale Wagoner. Financially, “we’ve really had to keep our belts tightened” in the past several years.

“That’s great,” Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins said of McDonnell’s action.

She noted that Martinsville City Council asked for the local aid to end in a letter sent to the governor as well as its legislative agenda for next year.

The Virginia Municipal League asked cities to make such requests.

Because lawmakers have not yet considered McDonnell’s budget revisions, Adkins said the city “still will communicate with our legislators in support of our position.”

If the General Assembly does not enact the repeal, Henry County will give back more than $1.5 million and Martinsville will return more than $1 million from fiscal 2009 through the current fiscal year, figures provided by county and city finance department officials show.

The county has expected to give back about $286,000 and the city has anticipated returning about $171,000 in 2013, officials have said.

Wagoner and Adkins could not immediately say how the county and city would use that money if they get to keep it.

“It would make it easier ... not to increase taxes” to fund the county’s needs, Wagoner said.

He emphasized that he was speaking hypothetically and the Henry County Board of Supervisors has not considered any tax hikes for the coming fiscal year that will start July 1.

Adkins said she would want to get advice from city department heads before determining how the city’s money should be spent.


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