To the Editor: Ann Mallek Town Hall Meetings

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Mallek Slates Town Hall Meetings in March

Local governments show their priorities in the most visible way by their choices about budgets. In the previous eight years I have brought information about the budget elements to the citizens and asked for feedback. Listening to citizen viewpoints helps me represent you better in the budget process.

A priority-based discussion is needed to more dramatically orient local government efforts to the desires and priorities of the citizens. While this is a difficult process, it is essential in order to make best choices every year. It is easier to say no or yes, but more difficult to identify programs you support or can do without.

This year when you attend a town hall, please be ready with your priorities. Where should we be focusing the taxpayers’ dollars? There are expense categories that are required by state or federal mandate, but part of our budget is discretionary. If you cannot attend, please share your ideas with me via phone, post, or email.

For decades the custom of the Albemarle Board has been to be cautious in predicting the economy; yet, this year even this approach predicted higher assessments than are achieved. Expense prioritization must occur to balance the current Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which ends July 1. For Fiscal Year 2017, the budget process underway now, heavier prioritizations will be needed.

Adding to the dilemma, the downturn beginning in 2009 and reduced investment have left the county’s capital program behind in upkeep and many years behind in additions to schools to house our growing school population. Sidewalk projects take years to accomplish. Citizen frustration is high.

Costs have increased in the last three years. I am proud that the board continued to invest tax revenue to add positions in the County police department, to gradually add staff to implement geographic or geo-policing. Community policing is what we all remember as the officer on the beat, who knew his or her residents well and was a trusted friend. It was also essential that extra social services staff were hired to carry the increased caseloads that are now a county reality. Opening two new libraries, each needed for a decade or more and widely supported by citizens, has increased operating expenses as well.

For White Hall-area residents, there are extra questions to ponder. For several years the idea of small area plans for the country crossroads such as White Hall, Free Union, Batesville and Earlysville have been on the to-do list for the county. Citizens have repeatedly asked to start the process, and the focus is most keenly felt in White Hall.

Question One: What/where do we consider the White Hall crossroads community to be?

Residents will discuss the history and informal boundaries of the community. In the Comprehensive Plan discussion, before we could talk about changes to the Zoning Ordinance for additional uses in crossroads communities, we needed to identify where those boundaries were.

Question Two: What do residents want for this crossroad community? What do they not want?

One thing that will be very important is making sure that the folks who are part of the discussion understand the expectations for the Rural Area zoning and that public water and sewer are not part of it.

Town hall meetings will be held Saturday, March 5, at 10 a.m. at the White Hall Community Building;
Monday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at the Broadus Wood Elementary School cafeteria; and Thursday, March 10, at 8 p.m. at the Field School, Crozet, following the Crozet Community Association meeting that begins at 7 p.m. (note their earlier time).

Ann Mallek
White Hall District Supervisor

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