The Gloucester Board of Supervisors took comments from residents Tuesday during two public hearings on the county’s proposed tax levies for calendar year 2020 and the proposed budget for FY21. The public hearings were held electronically and allowed concerned citizens to write or call in their comments.
Despite the new format, several individuals were able to submit statements for both public hearings as well as for the general populace comment period. Many of the comments submitted were in regards to the county raising taxes to meet budgetary needs. Several residents were concerned with the ability to pay higher taxes given the state of the economy.
Regarding the budget, David Weller wrote that he understood the cuts County Administrator Brent Fedors had made to the budget, but said he felt that the cuts may not be enough. He said that if the choice were for him to lose his home or the county having to lose revenue, he would clearly save his home.
Wayne Crews made comments during both public hearings. During the first hearing, he reminded the board of the current state of the national economy, and urged supervisors to not raise taxes. Another resident, Howard Mowry, said he felt that the budget could not be passed as is.
John Meyer focused his written comments on the recent spike in unemployment in Virginia, and specifically in Gloucester. He asserted that about 10 percent of Gloucester County citizens are now out of work. He acknowledged the work Fedors had done to trim the budget, but said he felt that the trimming needs to continue. Meyer suggested a few ways to help citizens recover, such as a June tax holiday. He urged the board to do what it can to help the people.
April Martinez made comments on behalf of the homeless pets in Gloucester County. The executive director of the Gloucester-Mathews Humane Society, Martinez made the case for the work that the organization does for the animals of the county, and asked that the board fully fund her agency’s $112,540 request. These funds are for services such as spaying and neutering pets.
Arlene Armentor, executive director of the Gloucester Mathews Care Clinic, wrote to express her appreciation to the community during this time. She also mentioned the rise in patients who had recently lost their health insurance and their jobs, stating that funding for the clinic was crucial for the county.
During the hearing regarding the proposed tax levies for calendar year 2020, there were four comments made, two from residents who had voiced their concerns during the first hearing. Mowry comments were against any new or increased taxes very clear. Wayne Crews’s comment echoed Mowry’s; he too felt that raising the tax rates would be the wrong decision.
Joseph Gandarillas wrote, reminding the board that it raised the real estate tax last year. Gandarillas said his rates went up 15 percent, and that people he had spoken to had experienced a similar spike.
The last comment was a voicemail from Russell Clements, who was also against the raising taxes. Clements said that a lot of the county’s budget needed to be assessed when it came to salaries of both county and school employees. He said that if the board wanted to find money, it should start there.
Along with the public hearings, there was also a public comment period that functioned in a similar way. Three comments regarded the current state of the county.
Crews and Mowry made their voices heard during this segment, as well. Crews voiced his opinion on the current electronic model being used for board meetings. He listed several counties that are still conducting in-person meetings and asked why Gloucester’s board isn’t doing the same. Mowry voiced his worry about people being able to make tax payments during this time, suggesting that payment deadlines be extended.
David Weller commended the board and the county for their work during these uncertain times while many people and businesses are suffering. He said that he looked forward to their leadership.
Work session tonight
The board will consider the comments received during its budget work session at 7 o’clock tonight. The meeting once again be held electronically, and residents may send comments to gloucesterva.info/citizencomment or call 804-824-2760 and leave a voicemail.