The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority requested almost $1 million in local money to help it operate next fiscal year.
Executive Director Douglas Parsons presented the EDA’s pitch to the Board of Supervisors at a work session on Tuesday. Other outside agencies, or community partners such as Northwestern Community Services and Samuels Public Library also presented their requests for local funding.
The county requires all outside agencies to provide statements justifying the need for local funds and financial documents such as budgets or forms filed by nonprofit organizations with the Internal Revenue Service.
While the EDA has made cuts to its operating budget, the authority requests additional funding to help the agency stay afloat. The EDA has requested $968,284 for fiscal 2022: $306,876 for operations, $63,000 for capital expenses and $593,407 to cover loan payments.
The county began to budget funds last summer to help the EDA while the authority struggles to regain its financial stability. The EDA lost more than $20 million over a recent period of several years while under the direction of its former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, who has been accused of embezzling or misappropriating EDA money for her own gain. Civil lawsuits claim McDonald used EDA money mainly to fund real estate transactions.
The authority has made progress in recouping lost money by selling off some of its properties in the town and the county as well as finding tenants for rental spaces.
The EDA spends some of its money on professional services such as accountants, auditors and attorneys, and it spent additional money on accounting services to sort out the authority’s debt history. The authority spends most of its budget on loans that total more than $39 million. The EDA spends $1,572,221 on loan payments each year. This amount does not include the loan on the new Front Royal Police Department headquarters on Kendrick Lane, which the EDA took out on the town’s behalf. In the fall, the town secured a loan to pay its debt to the EDA.
The authority cites in the justification statement its on-going lawsuits that could take one to two years to reach a resolution. The EDA seeks through litigation to recover the more than $21 million lost during McDonald’s tenure.
The authority would like to repair the roof on the agency’s office building on Kendrick Lane and to upgrade parcels in the Stephens Industrial Park to increase their marketability.
The EDA has requested funding for:
• A salary increase to Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson from $37,000 to $43,000 through a reclassification of her position to reflect her duties.
• A marketing budget.
• An increase in funding to cover legal fees and costs.
• An increase in its maintenance budget to cover the cost of roof repairs on its building at 400 Kendrick Lane.