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Crowd packs Shenandoah County budget hearing

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New Market resident Mark Capozella addresses the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night during a public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2013 budget at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Sally Voth/Daily

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Former Shenandoah County Chief Jailer Cindy Bailey speaks before the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night. Sally Voth/Daily

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Residents gathered Tuesday night for a public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2013 budget at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School. Sally Voth/Daily


By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A large crowd packed into Peter Muhlenberg Middle School Tuesday night for a public hearing on the proposed fiscal 2013 budget.

Residents passionately addressed the Board of Supervisors on the controversial regional jail project and spending for Shenandoah County Public Schools, with a few also discussing funding for fire and rescue.

The supervisors have advertised a 6-cents real-estate tax hike to balance the budget. That would bring the tax rate to 53 cents per $100 of assessed value. However, the county won't have to make payments on the regional jail for several years.

Among the chief opponents of the jail is Sheriff Timothy C. Carter. Former Chief Jailer Cindy Bailey has been vocal in her opposition.

The School Board is asking for $23 million in local funding, about 10 percent more than what the schools are getting from the county this year.

Edinburg resident John Riffee was the first speaker to take the microphone.

"People do not want a regional jail," he said. "We do not need it."

Riffee referenced comments District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli made last week about the majority of residents supporting the RSW Regional Jail, which is estimated to cost about $89 million, with the state paying about 45 percent of eligible construction costs.

Base construction bids came in last week, and ranged from about $55.7 million to $61.5 million.

"If Ms. Baroncelli could have everybody stand up who wants a regional jail -- who wants it?" Riffee asked the crowd.

Riffee said the supervisors haven't taken Carter's advice, and have "besmirched his reputation," but was cut off by Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley.

He was followed by Bailey, who sparred with Baroncelli during a town hall meeting last week. She mentioned Baroncelli's assertion that the current Board of Supervisors inherited disintegrating buildings and now have to act.

Bailey said the board didn't maintain the buildings because they had always planned to replace them whether residents supported that plan or not.

She brought up the county's roughly $20 million in capital projects in addition to the jail: a new county courthouse, a new health and human services building, and the purchase of land for new schools.

"Why a new jail now?" Bailey asked. "There is no mandate, nor has there ever been a mandate from the state to replace the current jail in Shenandoah County.

"You have not been transparent with your constituents and taxpayers. You have broken yet another promise, even though keeping that promise would assure the least expensive option -- we keep the jail we already own for now."

She reminded the supervisors that when they agreed to join the regional jail authority, they said they'd not go through with the project if the state didn't chip in half the construction costs.

When the supervisors approved the creation of a regional jail authority and an accompanying agreement in September 2009, Baroncelli said if the state didn't pay the 50 percent, the three counties would "go back to the table."

Last week, Ted Cole, of Davenport and Co. LLC, told the panel the state reimburses 50 percent of eligible costs, and some costs aren't considered eligible. That is why the state's share of construction costs is about 45 percent, he said.

Maurertown resident William Miller said county government and employees were wasting public funds. He accused paid firefighters of driving several fire trucks to local restaurants every morning.

"Every evening, down here at this government center, they're lit up like the Taj Mahal," he said. "You would think they're running 24-hour gambling with all the lights," he said. "Look at cutting expenses, don't just automatically reach out in my pocket to get another 13 percent from me."

He said the increase would lead to more foreclosures, which would cut the tax base.

New Market resident Mark Capozella also took the board to task over the regional jail.

"This is what you all want for your legacy?" he asked. "You're elected officials. You work for me. Last week, I was at a meeting and was told everybody in this county was for this jail. Well, we took 400-plus signatures at the door...they don't want the jail. You were our elected officials. I have no idea whether you're ever going to be elected again."

Toms Brook resident Ken Cruise asked the crowd if they were in the minority, and was answered with a chorus of nos.

"We are not, and we're not being listened to by the board," he said. "I think Sheriff Carter is our go-to guy. He's being ignored and in many cases being disrespected."

One individual did speak in favor of building the jail, though -- former Shenandoah County Jail Chief Jailer Charles Dellinger.

"I'm probably not going to get any applause here, but I don't care," he said. "People getting disrespect are you guys. I can't believe one person's caused all this, but that's what it boils down to. I think you made the right decisions."

Tuesday's youngest speaker was Jacob French.

"If it takes a 12-year-old kid to come up here and tell you we don't need a new jail and we need better education, then that's pretty sad. Here I am, an A, B student in my school, and I have to come up to," he said, pausing to count aloud, "nine people just to say we don't need this new jail. Bye."

Teacher Melissa Mumaw was one of many teachers and parents to urge the supervisors to grant the School Board's budget request.

"We have a small quality, dedicated system and we continue to work above and beyond with exponentially decreasing funds and increased responsibilities," she said. "Good enough is not just good enough for our kids.

"The budget that is on the table has not been cut to the bone; it's been cut to the marrow. If education is not funded, we will need to look at bigger jails."

Woodstock resident Katie Freakley urged the county to look at the bigger picture and the lasting impact of the board's decisions.

"No one is going to want to live and work in Shenandoah County with a sub-par school system," she said. "When is doing enough to just get by ever the right thing to do?"




11 Comments



Last night wasn't a referendum on the jail, it was a public hearing for the proposed budget. As expected, there were some of the same, who pretended it was a meeting about the jail and they spoke up. Beyond that, there were a handful of folks who spoke on their opposition to any increased taxes and in support of fire and rescue .. BUT a great majority of those present were concerned residents asking the BOS to give our schools top priority, make a commitment and fund them.

No surprise Mr. Dellinger spoke in favor of the jail as his family are heavy players in the ShenCo Machine that elected most that sit on the board. I have news for Mr. Dellinger: The Machine is broken. I guess he forgot the McCleary/Wiseley race that led to the shellacking of the chosen one.

I do wish more people would have spoken against the proposed tax hikes in general, though.

Shenandoah Co needs to take a closer look at education.  Every Elementary and Middle School in Shenandoah County did not meet APY for at least last year and some of them are on year 3 of improvement!! That’s six out of the nine schools total that are failing to meet requirement set by the state. Some may use the excuse that state standards are too hard but if that is the case.... why is it that Rockingham Co has twenty seven of their twenty nine schools meeting standards??? I am personally looking at other options for my child.  Attached is the link for school report cards for Virginia schools.
 
https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/

We should take a closer look at education but throwing money at it isn't the answer. There are cuts that could be made in the school budget without affecting teachers that could add money to their salaries.
And quit keeping substandard teachers. If a teacher has 50% or better of their class with less that a C average somethings wrong. Why does the county keep teachers that can't do the job. And this is with class sizes of 20. Teachers in my high school would have loved the day they only had 20 students. Now if you have 25 students you need an assistant. Why?
We also have administrators in the schools that want to start cutting extra curricular activities so they can get raises. But when you suggest a pay-to-play system like other counties have adopted they say "not in my school system". Pretty sure its not theirs.
The best way we can fix the mess is to vote every single one of them out and replace them with people that are willing to make hard choices. Not put their grubby little hands in our pockets.

Parent, when I go through each of the Rockingham County elementary schools, I see where 3 of them didn't make AYP, and 3 of the 4 middle schools in Rockingham County didn't make AYP........you might want to expand your search when looking for a new place to live or get your facts straight. Rockingham County as a whole did not make AYP, nor did Clarke, Frederick, Warren, Page, Winchester or Harrisonburg cities........

b2866, most teachers do not have aides in the classroom, most aides are assigned to students who need the help as mandated by the state and those aides accompany the student throughout the day. These students are required to be mainstreamed with the regular classes and their scores count towards AYP.

While I agree that we need to take a closer look at education, I only see us throwing money at the top end and at transportation expenses for extra-curricular activities. The SCPS organization is very top heavy in pay, I'd rather see a third party come in and see how much duplication (dead weight) could be eliminated cutting massive salaries....will this happen, we know it will not. As far as the teachers are concerned, I agree, get rid of the sub-standard teachers, fight the union and do what needs to be done to get quality instructors in the classroom for our children.

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This board of supervisors is high on something if they think they are going to keep ignoring us and still keep their jobs. Wee need to make sure they don't. People, I have heard nothing but complaints about Dennis Morris for years. He's still there, isn't he? Sharon Baroncelli is obviously lying when she says "The majority of the residents are in favor of the jail." Really?! I've never met ONE. Never. Fire her! We need to fire them all and start over. "Take out the trash", so to speak. This is all in our hands folks. Elect a new board. And ya know what else? Quit paying them. As long as we say "Yes sir" and pay our taxes to these crooks, we give them more leverage. Quit paying them. They can't foreclose on or jail all of us. We're the bosses! Remind them. Which reminds me of Chairman Helsley silencing John Riffee. Really?! Who the hell does this man think he is? Mr. Helsley, you don't silence US. WE ARE GOING TO SILENCE YOU. And Mr. Riffee, You spoke exactly what we are all thinking and I agree with every word. But you should have stood up to Helsley and shut HIM up. I'm so ticked off at these fools I could go on forever here. Bottom line, they are going to walk all over us for as long as we let them.

Do the people of Rappahanock and Warren counties have or want to spend the millions that are going to be needed for this jail? Have either of these two counties already made the decisions necessary to proceed or is this something that still needs to be gone over like Shenandoah is? Times are bad, strange to be building a new jail now unless you don't already have one or the one you have is falling to the ground.

Sadly, they are not "high on something", we are for re-electing them for all these years. Baroncelli, Ferguson and Baker could have all be unseated in recent elections but The Machine chugs on.

What union? There are no unions in VA. What the He11 are you talking about?

that's pretty comical. Where do you live or work? Of course Va has unions. Va being a 'right to work' state doesn't mean the unions aren't allowed. Visit this page
http://www.unions.org/unions/virginia/46

Maybe you can google the VEA. Unions are everywhere, you just don't have to join them here in Va to keep your job. Here's a little more info to enlighten you as to what I'm talking about
http://www.nrtw.org/c/vartwlaw.htm

Ahhhh...no. There is no union here. No ability to collectively bargain.

Education association...yes. All they have the ability to do is lobby for their cause. The only power their members have is the power to vote in elections. I have a relative who's a teacher in Pennsylvania where they have a union...trust me...the VEA is definitely not a union.



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