On February 11, 2010, the Virginia Municipal League, along with the Virginia Association of Counties, held its annual legislative day. This is where elected officials gather from around the state to hear about the status of bills going through the House and Senate that affect local government.

Needless to say, the majority of the discussion centered around the budget.

It was a somber visit, with very little good news. The Commonwealth is falling on hard times, which we all know. These hard times will affect local government, which we all know.

What we don’t know, and our legislators tried to warn us, is that these hard times may have more of an impact than our worse assumptions predicted. That is saying a lot.

Let me start with some numbers. These are numbers from the budget submitted by Governor Kaine. We all feel that a final budget may not be this rosey.

The State’s funding of K – 12 education will be slashed. Under Kaine’s proposed FY 2012 budget the state will contribute less dollars to education than 2007.

Money that supports local police with be cut 27% in two years!! We will have to make up at least $200,000 or more here in Blacksburg. But, small towns that rely on this money to provide 24/7 police protection will be severely impacted.

The state helps fund the staffing for constitutional officers (Treasurer, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, Sheriff, Commonwealth’s Attorney). This cut will not affect Blacksburg, but it will affect Montgomery County. Under the proposed budget, that will probably be cut even further, the state would withdraw support for 3,800 workers in the constitutional offices across the state. These are people who send out tax bills and collect taxes.

The real budget that will be argued about will be published on February 21. The numbers will be closely examined by our finance department. We will want to know right away where we will be required to make up funding that the state has traditionally supplied.

Thursday night we had supper with Delegates Shuler and Nutter and Senator Edwards. They were kind to take time out of they busy schedule to join us. All three were very honest about the situation and it was obvious that they felt the pain of this session. One theme was clear from each representative. All citizens in the Commonwealth will be affected. From more children in the classroom to more pot holes on the highway. There will be less services provided.

In Blacksburg, we will continue to monitor the situation and our budget. Last year to save money we froze vacant positions so we have less people doing more work. We cut out popular programs such as monthly brush collection (which I still miss).

It is our goal to continue to provide as high a level of service as possible given the economic times and the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia has decided that they will balance their budget by forcing the localities to make up much of the difference.

Stay tuned!