WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County supervisors appeared hesitant to increase funding for community groups and programs Thursday evening.
During the Board of Supervisors’ budget work session, a handful of groups came before the board to fill in some gaps and add faces to names on funding requests. Most groups were asking for small increases from the board before the budget is approved.
Services and programs ranged from Northwestern Community Services’ substance abuse program, in which they hope to establish detox beds in the county, to food and shelter programs that include providing school lunches.
The state offered some funding to Northwestern Community Services to help it establish a program to put detox beds in the county, said Mike Elwell, CEO of Northwestern Community Services.
“We don’t have any detox beds in our region,” Elwell said. “We have to send someone to another community to get detox services, and a lot of times those beds aren’t available.”
Besides the detox beds program, Northwestern Community Services has also put a substance abuse program for adolescents in place in Shenandoah County. This change, Elwell said, is something Northwestern Community Services has been discussing for some time and has finally put into action.
Northwestern Community Services is requesting $258,995 from the county, $12,333 more than last year.
Most groups that presented to the board Thursday are in similar situations as Northwestern Community Services. Other funds are available, and doors aren’t closing, but they are still asking for increases.
County supervisors were hesitant to commit to increased funding, though official votes haven’t been cast.
The proposed budget sits around $4.7 million, and Board of Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley aid he would like staff to take a look at the budget and see if they couldn’t trim it down “considerably.”
District 4 Supervisor Karl Roulston said he thought the whole budget discussion had to come down to priorities.
“My number one priority is taking care of the county personnel we already have,” he said. “We can’t walk away from the health insurance increases. We have to do those things. The sad fact is that adding new on top of that is where that becomes a challenge.”
Roulston was referring to the supervisors agreeing on Tuesday to give county employees a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment. That agreement also comes with some state funding, but not quite enough to offset the total price.
District 3 Supervisor Rich Walker said that state-mandated pay raises weren’t completely thought out by legislators. He noted that while insurance prices are going up — something the county is committing to help cover for their employees — paychecks are going up too, putting a strain on county budgets.
Other unfunded mandates such as Medicaid expansion are making matters difficult, Helsley said. Medicaid expansion created four new county positions, said County Administrator Mary Beth Price. State funds helped pay for those positions in the first year, but those costs are coming back to the county moving forward.
Roulston said about the budget requests that he was "completely empathetic about the need for these things,” adding “It’s just perhaps it’s not this year. And we just have to try and stretch it just a little bit longer.”