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Budget hearing speakers seek funding for history programs

ISLE OF WIGHT

Three of the five speakers who commented at an April 15 public hearing on Isle of Wight’s proposed 2021-2022 budget asked the county to consider once again having a department of historic resources.

In 2014, the county defunded the department and negotiated an agreement with Smithfield where its museum staff became town employees.

“The salaries of the employees were cut and the town of Smithfield stepped up to pay the salaries of one and a half full-time employees out of the original three,” said museum volunteer Albert Burckard.

With Virginia’s standards of learning written at the state level, “local history programs are almost completely nonexistent in our public schools,” Burckard said. “So re-funding the Department of Historic Resources could potentially fill this serious gap in the education of our Isle of Wight County students.”

As such, he’s suggesting the county fund the department by reallocating some of the money it contributes to Isle of Wight County Schools each year, a suggestion Herb De Groft endorsed during his comments that evening.

De Groft argues the school system doesn’t need as much local funding given the 240 fewer students the division is expecting this September compared to its pre-pandemic population.

Joel Bradshaw of Carrsville said he’s also in favor of re-funding the department.

The proposed operating budget stands at $85.8 million — $6.3 million higher than the current year’s adopted budget. Much of the increase is tied to anticipated revenue from a 4-cent real estate tax increase, intended to fund debt payments associated with the Hardy Elementary School replacement project.

Of the $85.8 million total, the county has budgeted $14.3 million for all current and future debt payments to be made this coming fiscal year, roughly $27.5 million as its contribution to Isle of Wight County Schools’ annual budget, and $12.9 million for public safety.

The county’s five-year capital improvements plan remains essentially unchanged at roughly $90 million. It essentially takes the current year’s CIP and moves it forward a year, County Administrator Randy Keaton said.

The county has scheduled a vote on the adoption of its budget and CIP for May 13 at 6 p.m.