Board to vote on budget tonight
by Larry Chowning
At the April 18 public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 (FY14) budget, there was considerable support from several speakers to fund an economic development director to help the county attract new businesses, but other residents made it clear they do not want a 2-cent real estate tax hike.
Regarding the economic development position, Keith Ruse of Hartfield, the owner of Deltaville Boatyard, said, “I think it is a very positive move for Middlesex County to figure out ways not to have to raise our real estate taxes in the future. It’s a very competitive economy and to compete we have to do something different than we have been doing for the past 200 years.
“We have to figure out how to make money with our God-given resources,” continued Ruse. “Part of our gift is our geographic location for our marine industry. I think it will be a strong move on the county’s part to hire a person to oversee economic development.”
Theresa Jackson of Jamaica District, said, “I’m for the tax increase. I’m for economic development. Seventy percent of our local workforce goes out of the county to make a living. That takes time away from the family. We need businesses that pay a decent wage. We don’t need more department stores. They don’t pay a decent wage.”
Jackson noted other nearby localities have attracted green/clean industries that have provided good jobs. “We can do that too,” she said. “Congratulations on considering hiring an economic development/tourism person.”
Jerry Dunford of Remlik was opposed to the tax increase. “In a year’s time, are you going to look at the cost of having that person and compare whether or not it is beneficial to our county?” he asked. “Or are you creating another level of bureaucracy that we have to live with, whether it’s beneficial or not? Did you listen to the parents of those autistic children? Those lives are essential. Those ball fields that you are getting ready to build are not.”
“Why don’t you stop wasting our money? It takes away from our standard of living,” Dunford continued. “I’m in favor of essential things, but not things that are wasting our money.”
Rev. Tyrone Young, president of the Middlesex Chapter of the NAACP, said, “I feel that our children are being taught too much through technology because when they are questioned face to face, they don’t know what to do without the technology. You’ve also heard about these parents who have children with autism, and they need help.”
Ken Wilt of Hardyville said, “When I heard that property taxes were going up again this year I sat down and tried to figure out where the money was going to come from out of my budget.
“Ironically, if you are taking more money out of our pockets, you are defeating the idea of hiring an economic development person,” Wilt continued. “Government does not create wealth. It sucks the wealth out of a community. I’m a big picture guy. Any money set aside by the citizens and taken in by the government will be spent, and much of it will not go to the local private sector. What I want you to do is pass a budget without a tax increase, collect the money that is delinquent, and write more (speeding) tickets. People speed by my house all the time.”
Hal Muller of Remlik said he could possibly support a tax increase if the funds were spent for a legitimate need. He said funds should be spent on the education of autistic students, but supervisors have a history of wasting money. He noted the county’s history book, “Signatures in Time,” cost $80,000 and there has been no report on how it is selling. “It is a very nice book for people who have lived here all their lives to sit back and read, but $80,000 worth?”
The budget states that funds received from the sale of the book, which was released in November 2012, is over $29,000. Over 500 of the books of the 2,000-copy run have been sold, said assistant county administrator Marcia Jones. The funds have gone into the general fund.
Carolyn Schmalenberger, president of the Deltaville Community Association (DCA) and owner of Norton Yacht Sales in Deltaville, said, “I think it’s an extraordinary move by the board of supervisors to hire an economic development person, and I thank you (supervisors) and Matt (Walker) very much for including it in the budget.
“There are a number of vacant buildings in Deltaville and throughout the county,” she said. “We need someone to find outside firms to locate in our county and this [economic development] person would work towards that.
“We have a beautiful rural environment, which is attractive to business,” Schmalenberger continued. “The Deltaville Maritime Museum is a boating destination, and we need to continue to develop that. We need to interact locally, regionally and globally. We can’t live in the past century. We have to recognize new trends. I think an economic development person could help us be successful.”
Raynell Smith, curator of the Deltaville Maritime Museum and owner of Nauti Nell’s in Deltaville, thanked supervisors for their work sessions and the board’s transparency, “which has greatly improved.”
Smith said the DCA and Deltaville Maritime Museum have the “vision” that will help a county tourism director understand the needs of the community.
Supervisors will vote on the budget tonight, Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the Historic Middlesex Courtroom in Saluda.