Town manager recommends staff raises in budget; council honors Master Police Officer Harlow

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

There are no planned increases in real estate, personal property or machinery and tools taxes for the fifth year in a row, and Town Manager John Edwards recommended a salary raise for West Point town staff of up to 3.5 percent.

Edwards presented his 2019-2020 budget at City Council’s March 26 meeting; it totaled $16,605,347.

Town Council also unanimously approved (with Vice Mayor Deborah Ball not in attendance) a resolution honoring late West Point Master Police Officer Jason D. Harlow, who died March 12 after serving the town for 20 years.

Mayor Jim Hudson spoke before the resolution was read and said he was amazed at the outpouring of support and love the community has shown the police department and Harlow’s family.

“Everything that can be said has been said and deserves to be said all over again,” Hudson said. “Every time we talked about community policing the last few years, I always thought of Jason Harlow.”

Hudson also called Harlow a “friend” and that losing him is a “void that we (the town) won’t fill.”

Councilman Jack Lawson read the resolution, and Harlow’s wife Susan accepted it.

Later on, West Point Police Chief Tim Sawyer thanked community members in attendance and council for their support.

Budget

Edwards’ proposed salary raises of up to 3.5 percent for all town staff would cost a total of $51,170.

He also recommends funding the schools at their full request of $4,310,525.

As with taxes, Edwards does not recommend an increase in water or solid waste rates.

In terms of capital improvement projects, Edwards suggests $150,000 be set aside for the Riverwalk Park project to begin construction next year.

Town Council recently accepted a donation of 95 lots, with the majority of them off Chelsea Road, from Thrift Insurance Corporation for the park at its Feb. 26 meeting. The lots were assessed at $85,500.

The park has been in the early planning stages since last year and a town engineer is working on the design phase, according to West Point zoning administrator Holly McGowan.

The park will be built in phases and is near the Farmer’s Market. Plans include a pavilion, splash water feature for children and a walking trail. It will be called Chesty Puller Pavilion, according to Edwards’ budget presentation.

About $50,000 for the pavilion was included in the 2018-2019 budget to lay groundwork for a fountain and water feature. The pavilion will be constructed first, according to McGowan.

Included in the total amount given to the school division is $105,000 for capital projects.

Other capital improvements include continued roof improvements for the library for $20,000, a set aside amount of $25,000 in the town’s vehicle replacement reserve fund to replace vehicles as needed, an upgraded information technology/computer server at Town Hall for $12,000 and a heavy-duty, multi-purpose public works vehicle for $50,000.

Increased funding for the Chesty Puller 10k for a total of $22,850 and the library at $16,000 are also recommended.

The budget also sets aside $20,000 for new fire/rescue equipment purchases and $25,000 in the economic development account for future projects.

Edwards recommends funding Bay Aging’s Bay Transit transportation services for their full request of $26,667.

The transportation service, which serves the town, King William and King and Queen counties, has asked for more money from each locality in an attempt to get equal funding for their services.

Schools

With Edwards recommendation to fund the schools at their full request, the division’s total proposed budget comes out to $10,733,345, according to Division Superintendent Laura Abel.

The School Board approved Abel’s recommended budget at its March 19 meeting.

The proposed budget includes:

» A 3 percent salary increase for teachers and Standards of Quality funded positions, which would cost an estimated $147,300;

» Increased funding for the drama program for a total of $8,000; the drama department has never had a budget line item and has relied mostly on ticket sales, fundraisers and some supplements over the years, according to Abel.

» Increased funding for chorus and band programs for a total of $2,000 split between the two;

» Increased funding for the athletic programs for a total of $6,000;

» Increased funding for out-of-district career and technical education enrollment for a total of $15,000;

» Increased funding for on-campus career and technical program materials for a total of $5,000;

» Hiring a part-time alternative suspension facilitator for in-school suspension for $12,000;

» Starting non-licensed staff -- such as clerical, food service and custodial -- at $12 an hour verses $10 for $30,000;

» Absorbing the projected 10 percent increase in employer health insurance costs for an additional $25,000;

» Adding a part-time social worker for $35,000 and special education teacher assistant for $20,000.

Town Council will hold a public hearing on the recommended budget and tax rates at 6:30 p.m. April 23 in Town Hall, 329 6th St.

Review archives were used in this report.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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