By Cindy Bailey
The decision of the Virginia Resources Authority to sell bonds for the RSW Regional Jail is an historic moment for the Shenandoah County Taxpayers. We will exercise our rights regarding repayment of this unconstitutional debt. There has never been a challenge such as this, and "we the people" have rights.
Our supervisors choose to borrow and spend hoping the economy will get better and there will be revenue to pay this debt.
Over the past three years, supervisors repeatedly have told citizens that they had no choice but to build a new courthouse because they had been ordered to do so by the courts. That was not the truth. Although three lower court judges petitioned the circuit court for adequate court facilities (not a new courthouse), no court order was ever issued. Many options were available to meet the facilities needs of those lower courts, but supervisors, not surprisingly, chose the most costly among them.
Until now this board has been re-elected on promises not to raise taxes even though they are building unnecessarily during the worst recession in 80 years. The county's supervisors have once again broken their promise to the citizens of Shenandoah County and had to raise taxes this year. They will have to raise taxes every year for the rest of our lives and many generations to come. You know what happens to politicians who promise "no new taxes" and the turn around and raise taxes.
The Old Edinburg School project, which they are advertising as a school for special needs children, with a cost of more than $4 million tax dollars, is also being planned as a Community Center. I have talked with parents who see this project as segregation. Many of the children referred to as special needs are currently in a public school in this county getting the help they need and no one is questioning "why are they there?"
County Administrator Douglas C. Walker asked for an 8 cent tax hike; the board approved 4 cents. This tax increase does not include paying the following: jail project, Edinburg school, renovating Old Court House to name a few. Please explain how putting disabled children in a community center where adults off the street will have continued access to these children through other programs offered at the school/community center is safer and more secure than the public schools?
Any reasonable person would determine that this project does not have the best interest of these special students in mind. If anything, these special children potentially will be exposed to a more serious threat due to the community center in the same building. This project has been promoted by Board of Supervisor David Ferguson as a revenue producing program. Is the public getting all the information? There seems to have been a lot of talk behind the scenes regarding this project. A community center/school for the disabled does not sound like an appropriate and safe environment for our most vulnerable citizens in Shenandoah County. We need to make room at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, utilizing the space initially set aside for 5th graders and/or building onto this school using the land purchased around that school to accommodate these special children, while keeping them close to their classmates.
Fearing that declining real estate values would force them to increase the tax rate, Shenandoah County supervisors decided to discontinue the practice of reassessing property every four years. The county administrator told the commissioner of revenue that supervisors had discussed the impending reassessment. If supervisors have held such a discussion, it was not done at a meeting open to the public.
Local government, including schools, depends heavily on real estate taxes for funding. Supervisors would have no choice but to increase the tax rate significantly to collect enough money to finance the cost of government that continues to grow in spite of a poor economy. Did you know you cannot be taxed for more than the fair market value of your property?
Cindy Bailey is a retired chief jailer of the Shenandoah County Jail. She lives in Woodstock.