The Virginia General Assembly will convene its 2014 session in Richmond on Jan. 8, and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently adopted an agenda of items they will ask of the County’s Delegation to the General Assembly.
The top items on this year’s agenda include state funding for K-12 education; restoration of state funding for programs/services that the state requires local governments to provide; enhanced state, regional and local collaboration on transportation projects; and a request for reimbursement from the state for primary election expenses.
Because school funding in Virginia is a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth and local jurisdictions, the Board asked the delegation to consider several education issues. Of great priority is the request to restore full funding for the Cost-of-Competing Adjustment (COCA) for county school teachers and support staff.
Since cost of living varies throughout the Commonwealth, the state implemented COCA to supplement salaries for teachers and support staff in higher cost jurisdictions. The state reduced the level of COCA funding to communities such as Prince William County, which in turn increased the local funding necessary to hire teachers, and reduced the revenue available to support other education needs in the community.
Another education issue the Board would like the delegation to push in this year’s session is to increase the Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding to accurately reflect the cost of new benchmarking that has been put in place by the state.
Aid to localities, a category of state funding designed to assist local governments in funding core programs, was reduced significantly during the Recession. As a budgetary mechanism to address budget shortfalls at the state level, local governments were required to remit back to the state some of the aid originally provided to localities. Though this funding has been partially restored, it is the Board’s position that the state should return to fully funding aid to localities.
The new landscape of transportation funding shaped by the Commonwealth’s 2013 transportation legislation has created a critical need for collaboration on transportation projects among all levels of government. The Commonwealth, local governments, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) have new revenue streams to improve traffic congestion. The Board’s position is that close cooperation between all entities is necessary to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars.
Along with this new transportation position, the Board again asked the Delegation to consider funding transportation projects in the County that include the widening of Interstate 66, improvements to the I-66/U.S. 29 interchange, improvements to U.S. 1 between Mary’s Way and Featherstone Road, improvements along U.S. 1 between Dumfries and Brady’s Hill Roads, improvements to Va. 28 between Linton Hall Road and Fitzwater Drive, and interchanges on the Va. 234 Bypass at Balls Ford Road, Sudley Manor Drive, University Boulevard and Brentsville Road.
Finally, the Board of County Supervisors included electoral issues in their legislative agenda. Specifically, the Board is looking for the General Assembly to address the issues with split precincts and the cost of running primary elections. The Prince William Electoral Board offered technical suggestions that would eliminate split precincts, which can be confusing to voters and creates additional administrative costs to the County.
The state has repeatedly reduced the reimbursement it pays to localities to offset the election costs for electoral boards and general registrars, and the June 2013 Primary Election cost the County $105,656 – more than $30 per vote. In Fiscal 2014, reimbursement to localities amounted to only 62 percent of actual election costs.
The Board will present its agenda to the delegation and discuss these issues in a joint meeting the evening of Dec. 10.