By MELINDA WILLIAMS
With another session of Virginia General Assembly drawing ever closer, Pulaski County Board of Supervisors has started developing a list of legislation it would like to see enacted in 2014.
Reducing local expenditures, improving fairness in revenue collection, improving transportation and expanding economic development are all goals of the board’s proposed legislative measures.
The legislative proposals are outlined in a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell and local state senators and delegates. “The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors respectfully requests your assistance with the following legislative measures …,” the letter states.
In order to help localities reduce their expenditures, the supervisors are asking the legislature to allow localities outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to not be required to administer storm water quality regulations. Storm water management had been handled by the state, but has been passed off to localities.
“This program represents an added financial burden on localities already affected by the implementation of VRS (Virginia Retirement System) change and the transfer of financial responsibility for LODA (Line of Duty Act) benefits.
Another measure the board would like addressed deals with funding for educational functions. The supervisors would like the General Assembly to require Virginia Department of Education to “clearly define job titles as being administrative or instruction” so that they correspond with the Commissioner of Accounts definitions.
In order to simplify elections, the board asks that HB259 be passed during the upcoming General Assembly session. The bill, which failed in 2013, would eliminate split precincts within House and Senate districts.
For example, Dublin precinct is split between the 7th and 12th House districts in Pulaski County. As a result, some voters in that precinct vote in the 7th District race and others vote in the 12th District race.
To improve the fairness of revenue collections, the board would like the General Assembly to provide alternative revenue sources to counties, such as a local option to increase sales taxes and/or state income taxes. This would reduce the pressure to raise personal property and real estate taxes to address revenue needs.
Implementing a financial penalty on businesses that misallocate business license or sales taxes would also level the revenue collection field, board members believe. According to the letter, Pulaski was subject to a misallocation of $17.8 million, thus affecting operating revenues and altering the composite index used to establish school funding.
The misallocations generally occur in Fairlawn, where businesses allocate their taxes to Radford City instead of Pulaski County.
“In this day of electronic mapping, there is no basis for incorrectly reporting retail locations,” the board’s letter states.
The supervisors’ transportation recommendations include increasing funding for secondary roads instead of relying on the Revenue Sharing program, which requires a 50 percent locality match; restricting the use of left lanes on I-81 to passing in order to reduce congestion and improve safety; allowing counties to post directional road signs, like towns and cities can, instead of requiring Virginia Department of Transportation to do so, and allow chip and seal treatment on steeply sloped areas of unpaved roads to reduce the cost of gravel and grading.
In terms of economic development, the board would like the state to assist small businesses by providing “operational support” for regional business incubators such as New River Valley Business Center on Viscoe Road in Fairlawn, and continuing to use the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to invest in economic development.
Finally, the supervisors are asking the state to “build a partnership” that has “deteriorated significantly” between local and state governments due to the state’s transfer of financial responsibilities to local governments. Localities often refer to these transfers as “unfunded mandates,” meaning localities are forced to take on programs that used to be the state’s responsibility, but the state does not provide any funding to the locality.
At the request of Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss, the board also approved an additional legislative request for VRS to stop making localities handle paperwork it used to handle. He said county staff is spending a lot of time doing VRS paperwork it didn’t have to do before.