With Virginia’s General Assembly set to swing into full action next month, the Town of Ashland hopes legislators will pull their own fiscal weight.
Dec. 3, town council approved its list of legislative goals, which center on asking legislators not to shift fiscal burdens to local governments or affect current revenue streams.
According to Charles Hartgrove, town manager, the six goals address issues “we repeatedly see every year.”
In a memorandum to Ashland’s representatives in the legislature – State Sen. Donald McEachin and Del.-elect Buddy Fowler – members of town council outlined their concerns.
“You will find our concerns regarding the continued trend of the Commonwealth of Virginia shifting the financial burden of operational responsibilities to the localities,” the memo reads. “These acts are even more devastating due to the General Assembly’s past actions that have reduced local government revenue authority and sources, while continuing to pass along unfunded mandates and administrative burdens.”
Specifically, the town is asking the legislature to give local government bodies the authority to make local government decisions and not to further restrict local revenue authority or sources.
With existing unfunded state mandates like the Line of Duty Act and the Virginia Local Disability Program, the town is also asking legislators not to further shift state funding responsibilities or administrative burdens to local governments.
Legislative goals also request the state not levy state fees, taxes or surcharges on local government services and not confiscate or redirect local general funds or special funds to the state treasury.
The town passed a resolution in support of its final requesting legislators file bills that bear fiscal impacts to localities no later than the first day of the session.
“There is a process that is in place that the state apparently does not like to use – it’s called a fiscal impact study,” Hartgrove said.
The process requires legislators to examine the impact of their decisions to change the way funding is allocated to localities or to shift taxing authority.
“They’ve not being doing that very consistently the past several years,” he added.
Hartgrove said the town is working with the Virginia Municipal League and other localities to encourage state officials use the fiscal impact process when they weigh issues that affect localities’ bottom lines.
Hartgrove expected to incorporate goals from the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and Virginia Municipal League.
“As we go forward, I’ll incorporate things and bring those back to you,” he told council.
Hartgrove also said he is still waiting on the full report from the local government reform commission and the outgoing governor’s budget, two items that could affect the town going forward.