Top Funding Priorities in Harrisonburg

Brent Finnegan -- November 1st, 2010

This is the final installment of the 2010 hburgnews.com reader-candidate Q&A series with candidates running for Harrisonburg City Council. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Harrisonburg City Council

Photo of Harrisonburg City Council by Holly Marcus via the hburgnews Flickr pool.

On Oct. 22, The Daily News-Record reported that the city budget will be amply supported by existing revenue streams. Do you believe that will be the case next year, or in four years? What are your top funding priorities if/when revenues decrease?

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Carolyn Frank: Our revenues especially from the State have decreased and we really are not expecting to see that funding returned anytime in the future, and there are those who suspect it will never return. Our city finance team usually projects revenues fairly conservatively. Keeping us from budgeting and spending money we don’t have. We have a CIP plan (capital improvement plan), that helps us plan long-term. The main role of government is public safety, infrastructure, education, social services and recreation. This past year every department was ask to cut their budget from the previous year, except for the School. Local dollars for school budget stayed level. Priorities will be basic government services.

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Ted Byrd: I do not believe that the City will be amply supported by existing revenue streams for the next year. Currently, through our involvement with Virginia First Cities and the Virginia Municipal League we are being told to prepare for, at best, level funding and more likely, less revenue from the State. My funding priorities will continue to be our core services: Public safety; Education; and Transportation. Tough strategic choices will need to be continually made, and I am committed to making them for the next four years.

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Greg Coffman: My best guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the revenue stream will be a little better than this past year. However, I have no way of knowing whether it will be sufficient to fund everything we’d like. After 17 years on the School Board, I’ve had the experience of balancing a budget in the worst and best of economies. In fact, I’ve had more experience dealing with public budgets than any other candidate. Just as with our personal budgets, managing a public budget requires prioritizing the needs of the community. My priorities for funding would be the core services we expect a city to provide. Specifically, but not necessarily in order of priority, these would be education, fire and police, transportation, and health (water, sewer, refuse collection). Once these areas were adequately funded, the remaining revenue would be prioritized among the secondary needs of the community.

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Charlie Chenault: If the 2011-2012 budget remains the same as this years, the revenue stream should be sufficient to cover the city’s budget, but it will not amply support it. I remain concerned about the availability of sufficient state and federal funds to cover the school budget. Four years down the road gets mixed evaluations. Some economists see improvement by then in revenue streams, some predict improvements much further down the road. Almost all literature I encounter predicts a twenty (20) year delay before we reach normal employment levels (about 5% unemployment). One further complication is that our economy is more dependent than ever on the economic performance of other countries around the world. In other words, we have lost control of our economic destiny. Even if the state and feds were to recoup revenue wise, I am concerned that they well renege on their promise to restore our funding from them. Public safety, education and infrastructure remain my funding priorities if revenue continues to decrease. I continue to recognize the fact that JMU is critical to our local economy and this relationship must be nurtured.

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Joe Fitzgerald: Local funding in Harrisonburg and elsewhere will drop when there is no more stimulus money next year. How much it changes the year after that will depend on legislative sessions in Richmond and Washington. The steps to deal with that are, first, delay capital purchases, second, delay maintenance, third, don’t fill vacancies. The priorities, first to last, are public safety, education, utilities, transportation, and recreation.

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We have not yet received a response from Sal Romero.

Thanks to all the candidates for participating in this Q&A series.

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One Response to “Top Funding Priorities in Harrisonburg”

  1. Ross says:

    I didn’t know Jeff Mellott could predict the outcome of revenue streams in the future.

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