Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Washington County Virginia in Trouble 2010

by Lewis Loflin

Posted February 26, 2010:

ABINGDON, Va. - There was a new figure on the table at Monday night's Washington County School Board meeting: $8 million. That's the amount - roughly 10 percent of the school system's budget - that may have to be absorbed if state funding cuts come down as predicted. Teachers, administrators, clerical staff and aids could be on Washington County chopping block...


ABINGDON, Va. - Anticipated state budget cuts could mean that as many as 125 Washington County school employees will lose jobs. School officials claim that most Virginians would tolerate a small tax increase to pay for important services like education. Already staring at a $5.8 million budget shortfall - the bulk of which would come from $3.8 million in proposed state cuts outlined in former Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed budget - the school system would lose 81 jobs, 36 that have been eliminated through attrition, according to Lee's letter...

So says the Bristol Herald Courier. None of this is any secret to anyone that can read. More news coming out of Richmond could mean an additional 80 school employees could be axed. The public rails about the loss of school funding, while they remain silent as the local school system graduates illiterates. The school system like government in general here is a major employer.

Board Chairman Dulcie Mumpower know this could be one of the worst budget years on record and she should know. She has been entrenched on the Board for 16 years and says, "I'm hopeful we'll be able to do something, but there's a very large gap that our board's not going to be able to make up. I'm hopeful that we will be able to at least reinstate what we had to take last year and hopefully add some more." (BHC Feb. 16)

With all of this going on the Board of Supervisors decided to buy a $7.5 million luxury office building for themselves from a local coal company.

On February 23rd I attended the Washington County Board of Supervisors regular meeting. There was well over 100 people at the event and we were there over two controversial issues: the growing funding problems of the county government and the Alpha building deal, the other an ordinance on barking dogs. Only eight of us addressed the budget problems and the new building, the others were mad at being told to stop their dogs from barking all night. The dog ordinance was voted down unanimously, we got the new building we didn't need by a vote of six to one. One new board member, Nicole Price, hasn't been corrupted yet. While some talked about "common sense" none of that was displayed that night.

To quote the press on this (BHC Feb 24):

The decision to buy the Alpha building, which was kept behind closed doors until a Jan. 19 joint meeting with the IDA, has generated a low-level controversy among a group of citizens who contend it's the wrong time for the county to make a major purchase. Eight people spoke in opposition Tuesday, after an anonymous group of "concerned citizens" blanketed the county with fliers encouraging people to protest.

Last week, two members of the IDA resigned - Jack Hagy and Gene Baker. County and IDA officials were tight-lipped about the resignations-Tuesday. Baker could not be reached for comment, and Hagy said the building was just one of many issues that caused him to step down. "It's just not a good situation with some of the politics in Washington County," Hagy said. "We're just expected to go along with the decisions of the Board of Supervisors and be cheerleaders for them in all the decisions, and...I just can't do that."

The result of all those flyers was a grand total of eight of us spoke against it, the other 100 were there over dogs. I was there on that Jan. 19th. meeting and Christie Parker head of the County IDA looked furious. The supervisors (the exception of Nicole Price who just got into office and was also caught unaware) ran over the IDA Board like Mac truck. It seems to me they were threatening IDA funding unless they towed the line on what the BOS demanded. The ones I spoke to after the meeting were also furious.

As I directly confronted them on Tuesday night in the public comment section they lied to me directly on the issue because I had been asking about it for months. They conspired to withhold this information from the public until the last minute.

This had been decided months before as part of a multi-million dollar corporate welfare package for Alpha Coal Company. The County was to buy their building in Abingdon they still owed for so they could move ten miles down I-81 to Bristol, Virginia where they got an additional $8-9 million in other 'incentives." In other words this company milked the local governments of Washington County and Bristol Virginia for enough tax dollars ($15 million) to almost pay for their new offices. They made a reported $1 billion in profit in 2009.

What was brought up a few times was well stated by Ken Singleton: "Like many others, I'm concerned about the direction that's being taken by our federal government, state government and our local Washington County government. As you know, our country's trillions of dollars in debt, and...there are 10 states already bankrupt, with California being the largest." He along with another speaker pointed out that Washington DC politics has come to Abingdon.

This is indeed true, so where are the multitudes of local residents that flooded the town halls of Congressman Boucher in 2009 screaming about these very issues in Washington? Why are they so adamant in attacking President Obama over corruption in Washington, but be so silent at the same thing at local level? Those on the Left accuse them of racism, and I believe that charge has some merit.

That is why local government is so dysfunctional here. Steal the taxpayers blind, but don't touch my dog: "How on earth could dogs be stopped from doing what God created them to do?" they asked. "What's going to happen if we pass this ordinance and my neighbors don't like my dog barking?" This from the press is really enlightening:

I also have chickens," resident Heather Buchanan said. "How many times are my roosters going to be allowed to crow? ... What's going to be next and next? How many of our freedoms...are going to suffer?" (Talk about a real circus act.) One resident Tommy Sweet entertained the crowd with the sounds of other assorted animals that make noise and, he argued, would be absurd to regulate.

Update February 26, 2010 It seems the Richmond has decided to under fund the state retirement fund to lesson the impact on schools and social services. But the hit is still pretty big :

The Washington County School Board - not the supervisors - will determine how to spend the school budget, which makes up two-thirds of the total, and whether school system jobs will be cut...the 2 cent tax increase would generate less revenue than the county will offset in state would take an increase of 20 cents to cover all of the lost education funding from the state. For the school system, the budget adds more than $550,000, which restores local funding cut in this year's budget and then some. Still, it comes nowhere close to the $6.8 million hole anticipated in the school system's budget because of state cuts and rising costs. (Ref. BHC)

We are still getting the new building.

Return History, Causes of Poverty in Southwest Virginia

Congressman Rick Boucher and President Obama

To quote Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file):

"The region has been replacing traditional (better paying) manufacturing jobs with (low paying subsidized) call center jobs, which provide limited advancement and work opportunities. Call centers represent the factory floor of the Knowledge Economy; they are an important part of a diversified economic development strategy, but the region must be careful not to rely too heavily on them, as the work is easily moved to other regions and/or other countries."
No US Job Creation 1999-2009

Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file)

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