Work session to be held Monday, public hearing set for mid-week

The Patrick County Board of Supervisors will meet Monday to look for ways to address a $3.1 million shortfall in the proposed fiscal 2020 budget proposal.
Several department representatives will attend, including Dan Smith, Patrick County Sheriff; Sherri Hazlewood, Circuit Court Clerk; Steve Allen, coordinator of Patrick County Emergency Management; Rick Ward and Garry Clifton, of the Patrick County Library; and Ron Knight, of the Transfer Station.
The meeting that begins at 6 p.m. in the third-floor meeting room of the Patrick County Veterans Memorial Building in Stuart will mark the second work session – the first was held on March 19.
Then, Lock Boyce, of the Mayo River District, questioned the more than $400,000 increased funding requested by the school division.
The funds are needed to help pay for the 5 percent pay raise for all employees, according to school officials. The state approved a 5 percent pay hike for certain positions, but the pay hike does not extend to all employees, including those in the transportation and food service departments.
Boyce said he opposes giving more funds to the school division than the minimum amount required by law. For any more than that, he suggested the board tell the school superintendent “he can’t have this boost for his budget.”
Rickie Fulcher, chairman, suggested the county independently verify the minimum amount it is required to give the school division and seek answers to other concerns about the school’s proposal.
Boyce also questioned the effectiveness of the county’s career EMS/fire crews, and asked for information about the service, such as the number of calls they responded to and whether responses also involved a volunteer crew.
He has in the past advocated to eliminate the program in its current format to replace it with a less expensive model.
But Karl Weiss, an incumbent seeking reelection, said that while getting signatures for his reelection bid “the biggest ‘thank-you I’ve got is for the paid service, Mr. Boyce, I’ll tell you right now you’re barking up the wrong road” if considering cutting the blended fire and rescue service.
Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, asked if the county currently receives state funds to help pay for School Resource Officers (SROs). He said he heard about a new initiative that may with those expenses.
The SRO program was initially funded by grants when it began in 1998-99, Crystal Harris, of the Smith River District, said.
Noting that the program predated both Weiss’ and Lock Boyce’s elections to the board, Harris said it came about after she said she went to then-sheriff David Hubbard (who retired in 2007), and told him she believed the SRO program was a necessity.
Doug Perry was named the county’s first SRO and later, five additional SRO positions were funded, according to Harris and Rickie Fulcher, who was a member of the Patrick County School Board at the time.
Harris recalled that in 2008-09, when Weiss and Boyce were serving on the board, it was determined “we couldn’t afford them and they were cut out and I warned them then that it was a necessity.”
The importance of the SRO program was underscored after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, with officers again assigned to schools, Harris said, adding the program “still is a necessity.”
Like Weiss, she said she also heard about an initiative to put SROs in every school in Virginia.
Jane Fulk, of the Dan River District, said the county receives some state funds for the program because fully trained road deputies are assigned to the schools.
Supervisors proposed the county explore the possibility of identifying other funding sources that may help offset expenses for the SRO program.
A public hearing on the proposed tax increase will be held Wednesday, March 27, at 6 p.m. It also will be held in the third-floor meeting room of the Patrick County Veterans Memorial Building in Stuart.

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