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Officials asked to think of county

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- As the General Assembly went back into session this week, the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors asked the county's representatives to keep the area's interests in mind.

The supervisors adopted a list of legislative priorities at their Tuesday meeting.
The topics were discussed by the panel last month when it met with Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, and Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

They included economic development concerns relating to an access road in the Northern Shenandoah Industrial Park and tourism marketing.

The supervisors asked the General Assembly to not amend the machinery and tools tax, from which the county collected $2.27 million in the past fiscal year, according to the list of legislative issues provided by the county. Without that money, the county may have to raise the real estate tax rate, board members say.

District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris said on Friday the issues he was most concerned about are unfunded state mandates and having to pay an increased portion into the Virginia Retirement System.

"We're going to have to come up with $400,000 on our end [for VRS], and that's not counting our schools," he said.

The panel has long complained about mandates handed down by the state, but not funded out of Richmond.

"The number one issue probably is unfunded mandates," Morris said.

He said the supervisors have a tradition of meeting with local legislators before the session starts.

"We try to have a good rapport and a good line of communication with them," Morris said. "They know our concerns. Sometimes they can't always do what we like, but we have a good line of communications, and we respect each other."

Gilbert agreed that unfunded mandates are the biggest concern for the county.

"The governor and the General Assembly are both making a concerted effort this year to really take a hard look at how that is affecting localities and how to fix it," he said Friday evening. "I expect the governor to come out with a legislative package to address how mandates are handed down to localities and the funding mechanisms that do and do not exist for those mandates. We're trying to be responsive to those concerns."

Other issues that concern the supervisors are reductions in state aid, funding for public schools, and transportation.

County Administrator Doug Walker said on Tuesday that besides the legislators, the county would send the priorities to the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League.

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