More than 60 speakers appeared before the board Tuesday during two public input sessions in the afternoon and evening. It was the first opportunity for residents to address supervisors before the board begins its review of the proposed $1.8 billion fiscal 2013 budget this week. Final budget adoption is scheduled for early April.
County Administrator Tim Hemstreet has presented the board with two fiscal plans: One would keep property tax rates flat for residents; the second would lower the average homeowner’s tax bill by 5 percent. The reduction would be made by eliminating programs, removing salary increases for county employees and trimming millions more from the public schools budget, among other cuts.
During the afternoon session, a majority of speakers advocated on behalf of county libraries and numerous nonprofit organizations vulnerable to budget cuts, including the Loudoun Museum, Blue Ridge Speech and Hearing, La Voz of Loudoun and Friends of Loudoun Mental Health.
Jeff Baldwin, a member of the Middleburg Library Advisory Board, asked supervisors to consider the ways that libraries help all members of Loudoun’s community.
“Our library staff helped people look for jobs and helped them do their jobs. Students used computers to do their work. If you want to use a computer in one of the western county libraries, chances are you’re going to have to wait in line,” he said. “I urge you to fully fund our county libraries.”
Patti Maslinoff of Leesburg spoke on behalf of Friends of Loudoun Mental Health, which would not receive county funding under the proposals. She told supervisors that financial support for people struggling to regain their independence is a necessity.
“Every penny of county money will go toward helping people recover from mental illness and to gain their independence,” she said. “I have struggled with mental illness for almost 40 years. I am doing fairly well right now, but that hasn’t always been true. There were times when I worried about being able to live on my own. . . . For someone with mental illness, it is a critical part of recovery to be able to live on one’s own.”
Several speakers talked about the importance of maintaining the county’s energy plan, which could be reduced or eliminated if more budget cuts are sought.
Carol Kearney of Momentum Realty told the board that her company has participated in Loudoun’s Green Business Challenge since its launch in 2010.
The contest “is one of the few partnerships between [the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce] and the county, and it’s a very successful one,” Kearney said.
She noted that Loudoun has received national recognition for its leadership in energy conservation.