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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City, county expect level state funding

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall and Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki anticipate level state funding for the county and city in the upcoming fiscal year.

The Virginia General Assembly adopted an oft-delayed state budget Thursday, though the budget has not yet been approved by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In a recent news release, state Sen. Bill Stanley said that funding for state localities was held to current levels. Based on information they have gleaned from the recently approved budget, Hall and Towarnicki agreed with Stanley’s statement.

“We’re still waiting to get the hard numbers,” Hall said, but “it was expressed to me that we won’t lose any money, but we won’t gain any new money.”

Before the agreement was reached, as the July 1 budget deadline steadily approached with no sign of a finalized state budget, Hall said, he and other members of county staff had discussed what they would do in the event that they had to enter the new fiscal year without a state budget.

State funding for the county, Hall said, largely goes to constitutional offices and the school system. The question that county staff had to consider, he said, was “do we spend county money to fill in those gaps until we get a state budget?”

Hall is hopeful the budget will be approved.

“Political opinions aside,” he said, “it’s essential that we have something July 1.”

The assembly had been gridlocked over Medicaid expansion, which Democrats wanted approved as part of the budget and Republicans did not. The budget passed Thursday does not expand Medicaid in Virginia.

Towarnicki said that based on what he has heard of the new state budget, the city also should receive level funding, which was what city staff anticipated when crafting the city budget.

“It doesn’t appear that we’ll have to make any significant adjustments,” Towarnicki said Monday, “or even any adjustments at all.”

Of particular concern, he said, had been whether or not the city would receive “599 funds” — State Aid to Localities With Police Departments — though it now appears the city will receive that funding, he said.

Based on increasingly grim reports he had heard about the state’s revenue projections, Towarnicki said that he also had been concerned that the state would re-institute a program called “Local Aid to the Commonwealth,” which previously was included in the state budget starting in 2008 through 2012.

That program, he said, implemented a variety of reductions in funding to a host of state programs. The state gave the city the choice of picking which programs it would like to reduce funding to, or of allowing the state to decide which programs would receive reduced funding.

City staff always chose to pick themselves which programs would receive reduced funding, he said.

At the end of each fiscal year, Towarnicki said, the city would have to send the state a check for the unused funding, which usually amounted to roughly $200,000.

“We were concerned that that program might be reinstituted,” he said, “which would have had a significant impact on us.”

However, he said, in spite of decreasing state revenues, it appears that the program is not in the state’s fiscal 2014-2015 budget.


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