Lawson Seeks to Protect First Responders, Libraries from Budget Cuts

| January 9, 2015 | 0 Comments | News
Photo of Jeanine Lawson taking the supervisor's oath from her Facebook website, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.

Photo of Jeanine Lawson taking the supervisor’s oath from her Facebook website, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.

Under the direction of new Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R), the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to protect first responders and libraries from budget cuts within the County Executive’s budget presentation.

Protecting those services means county staff will present them at previously anticipated levels in accordance with the five-year plan rather than in accordance with the new taxing levels.

The five-year plan dictated the county would present the budget at a 4 percent increase to the average home owner’s property tax bill. According to the new formula county staff will present the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) budget based on an average property tax bill increasing 1.3 percent, which is equal to the amount that goods and services have increased over the past year.

“I would like to direct the County Executive to protect or exempt certain positions from our budget savings this budget season,” Lawson said.

She explained in her motion that the Board considers these positions to be necessary for public safety.

Lawson’s motions directed the County Supervisor to protect or exempt police, firefighters and other first responders, such as 911 operators. She clarified that some police or public servants not serving in the capacity of first responders would not be exempt.

Lawson told County Executive Melissa Peacor that the Sheriff’s office would be protected, but not county jail personnel.

Lawson added to the motion that libraries would also be exempt from budget cuts in the preliminary budget. That means protecting current levels of service for existing libraries and protecting the anticipated funding for new regional libraries to open in greater Haymarket and Montclair.

Peacor expressed that finding $9 million in cuts to the proposed budget while exempting certain agencies would be difficult. However, she said she would do it if it is the wish of the supervisors.

“Just the police staffing plan alone is $5 million,” Peacor said. “Cuts to the rest of government will be significant in order to keep that.”

County Staff spokesperson Jason Grant confirmed that to make the budget work it may require other county agencies received less funding than they have in previous years.

However, Supervisor Pete Candland framed the budget differently, explaining that what they are talking about is reductions to the anticipated growth of the budget. Regardless of cuts, the the budget will still be bigger than the previous year as tax bills will also be greater.

Candland told Bristow Beat that he is fine with some agencies receiving less funding than they did in previous years since creating a budget is about setting priorities for the county.

Supervisor John Jenkins (Neabsco-D) had concerns about how the county staff could distinguish between necessary and unnecessary positions in public safety.

“I don’t know how you go about picking out which officers are going to be exempted from the proposed cuts,” he said.

He also said he would prefer the supervisors simply give the county staff a dollar amount to work with.

Candland said he would support the motion.

“I think we need to nip this in the bud. [Police and fire are] two areas that I’m not willing to compromise on,” he said.

In a conversation with Bristow Beat, Candland explained why he wanted the libraries protected along with first responders.

“I look at the survey that the county conducts each year. Consistently each year, the library ranks number one or within the top two or three services that the most people use, so it obviously has become one of the core services of the county government.”

Piggybacking on Lawson’s motion, Mary Nohe (R) of the Coles District proposed a motioned that child protective services and foster care workers should also be protected from cuts to the county’s proposed budget. Both motions passed with only Jenkins and Principi opposing.

Within their various work sessions, the supervisors will still have a chance to review the County Executive’s budget. At that time, protected agencies could receive reductions. However, this seems unlikely to occur considering the opinions expressed by board members.

In previous years, Democrats on the board desired to provide more funding to first responders. However, they also valued funding other agencies present in the budget.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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