I have represented the Salem District for a year. I have learned a lot and worked hard to be effective for you. Most of the comments I hear are positive, but the negative comments help me understand others’ perspectives and desires from local government.
Thank you for allowing me to serve. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to participate in local government with the goal of improving confidence in government among voters. The challenges of entering a new system and tackling the job with hard work, determination, and common sense have been fun. I also hope that you believe Culpeper is benefiting from the efforts.
In my first year, I have worked hard to make government more transparent. Items discussed in private have been reduced, and public participation has been encouraged. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I believe your Board of Supervisors did not make any major decisions without the public first being aware of what we were considering and having an opportunity to react. Your reactions have helped make us a better government.
The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors did not pass any major ordinances or new capital projects in 2008. Several flawed major plans came before us, and you and I helped to defeat them all. The largest project was a proposed PPEA was water and sewer service in east of the town of Culpeper. The project had many major flaws, including an unworkable commercial rate structure, a required guaranteed schedule of tap sales backed by taxpayers and a financially-struggling private partner.
The second largest item considered was the adoption of Transportation Impact Fees. I support developers paying for the impact of developments. I do not, however, support charging a tax of $2,200 to every property owner that wants to build a house. Further, the proposed commercial fees would have placed Culpeper at a disadvantage versus adjoining counties in tough economic times. Finally, the fees would have not been applied to town parcels within the county, even though town residents would have been major beneficiaries of the road improvements targeted.
For months, we have known that next year will present the most difficult economic environment in generations. I have encouraged our county government to sacrifice by not creating new positions and by reducing all non-critical expenditures. I have lost most votes by a margin of 5-2 or 6-1. Many local families are struggling much more than local government. Now is not the time to increase the tax burden of local government.
It is possible to provide core government services with reduced expenditures, if we change the way our offices function. We will have to combine administrative functions, reduce headcount, eliminate some of the bureaucracy, and reduce some of the “wants” that are not “needs.” Whereas teachers in classrooms are critical, there is room to reduce educational administrative support. Further, there are generous programs that are expensive that can be eliminated without materially impacting core education. Within administration, there are some small departments that have been valuable historically, but perhaps the functions can be consolidated into other departments. Finally, county government ought to be able to take advantage of technology even more than it has to improve productivity.
An economic crisis presents an opportunity for constructive changes. Hopefully, a majority of us on the board will not look to the taxpayers to bail us out when they can least afford to.
I hope the update is useful to residents of the Salem District in terms of understanding how I am viewing issues facing us as your representative on the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors. I appreciate those of you that contribute your insights and opinions on the issues facing Culpeper County. If any readers would like to talk local government, my county e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my home phone is (540) 547-2742.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and I look forward to continued service in 2009.
Culpeper County Board of Supervisors
December 7, 2008