Board responds to IDA proposal

WOODSTOCK – Some Shenandoah County leaders want to use little to no local tax money to spur economic development.

The Board of Supervisors discussed a proposal Tuesday by the Industrial Development Authority aimed at creating a position that would focus on the local economy. However, at least half the supervisors did not support the IDA’s proposal that called for the county and the authority to share the cost of the position for the first three years.

The IDA proposed funding $150,000 toward an economic development director over a three-year period. The IDA would cover half the funding in the first year, 30 percent the next year and 20 percent in the third year. The county would use general funds to cover the balance over the three-year period with the expectation that the county pays for the position in full after three years. The county would hire and administer the position. The resolution also states that the county’s participation in the Shenandoah Valley Partnership would continue and the amount spent on membership not be cut or eliminated to fund the county’s portion of the cost for the position.

IDA board members met twice in May to discuss the idea of using authority funds to support a full-time employee devoted to economic development. The IDA adopted at its May 31 meeting a joint resolution it would present to supervisors pertaining to a funding agreement. The IDA also is considering changing its title to “economic development authority”.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker had criticized the IDA for its passive effort toward economic development. While he lauded the IDA for shifting its focus, Walker argued that the authority could fund a director with its own money.

“I am pleased that the IDA is looking to transform to an EDA,” Walker said. “I am pleased that they want to take a more active role in.”

The IDA has had at least $1 million in its coffers since 2009, Walker said. The vice chairman said he was disappointed with the current proposal because originally the IDA indicated it could fund the position in full for two years. The proposal before the board spreads one year’s worth of funding over three years, Walker said.

The vice chairman also criticized the IDA’s financial accounting, pointing out that reports for 2009 and 2010 required adjustments of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 2015 report also required notations on certain amounts of restricted funds, Walker added.

Walker said he wanted to present his own proposal to the IDA. His proposal would call for the IDA to fund 100 percent of the cost for the first year, 50 percent the second and 25 percent in the third. The county would pick up the remainder of the cost in the second and third years.

“If it is at all successful, it should neither be a problem for the IDA to handle that funding or the county to be able to follow through with it,”

Regardless of which proposal the IDA and supervisors adopt, a joint resolution still cannot tie down future boards that might or might not approve the previously agreed upon funding amounts.

Later during the discussion, Walker tried to push the board to adopt a resolution related to his proposal. Chairman Conrad Helsley argued that the agenda listed the proposal as a topic of discussion and not for action. Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said the board could send the proposal back to the IDA without taking action.

County Attorney Jason Ham advised that Walker would need to make a motion to amend the meeting agenda and identify the topic as an action item. Walker made such motion that failed by a 3-3 vote. District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey, District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz and Walker voted in favor of the motion. District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese, District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker and Helsley voted against Walker’s motion.