Letter – Don’t spend just because you can
Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
During the Sept. 28 debate between Renee Dial and Mark Wooster, Mrs. Dial repeatedly stated how the county is not spending enough on schools, at one point saying, “We are actually doing a great job of being financially fiscally responsible, but we can spend some more money because we have it.”
On the first part, I agree with Mrs. Dial. In fact, I made a similar comment during the budget public hearing. However, “we can spend more money because we have it” is the same budgeting philosophy my children would apply in a toy store.
Mrs. Dial referenced data presented at the September joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors that compared Isle of Wight to other locales regarding Composite Index, number of students and funding vs. required local match. I find it odd that Surry wasn’t included in the comparison. Maybe because it would have shown that by the state’s Composite Index computation, Surry is the sixth most affluent location in Virginia! (Isle of Wight is 53rd). No offense to our friends in Surry, but I have my doubts about this government math.
Mrs. Dial pointed to spending differences in Isle of Wight and York, stating we only fund 29% over the state requirement and York funds 44% over. To bring our local match to 44% would require an additional $3.1 million in local tax revenue (roughly a 4% increase) or a cut from within the non-school portion of the county budget. To get Mrs. Dial’s tax increase, she would need to work with the Board of Supervisors, something she and those she votes with on the board have been reluctant to do. Maybe because they would have to justify what they want to spend it on.
There may be a time to increase local funding, like when the “buckets of money” from COVID end. But while Isle of Wight families are struggling with 8%-plus inflation, I think we can do better than Mrs. Dial on budget decisions.