Sussex County Board weighs concerns as budget deadline looms

By: Terry Harris
Posted: June 10, 2020 | 3:28 p.m.

The Sussex County Board of Supervisors held a lengthy budgetary work session on Thursday, June 4, to weigh several options as they attempt to find ways to shore up the upcoming budget, in light of the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy.   The bulk of the three and a half hours of discussion which ensued centered around three topics to be considered in setting that budget which must be passed at the June 18 regular meeting: impacts on the budget from the closure of the Sussex County Health Department, the non-opening of the Waverly Pool for the last three years, and future staffing of the county animal shelter.

 In the last regular board meeting, numerous questions had been raised about hardships imposed on the county by the Crater Health District’s decision to close the Surry Health Department in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, but expected Crater representatives did not appear at that online meeting.  At the June 4 budgetary session, Dr. Alton Hart, Jr., Health Director of the Crater District Health Departments/Virginia Department of Health and a staff member did appear via phone to respond to the board’s questions.  They confirmed that they had, in fact, made the determination to close the Sussex department in March, and discussion ensued as to why and how the determination was made. Several board members weighed in with serious concerns about how this affects the citizens of the county.  The issue on how to deal with the situation was forwarded to the finance committee meeting to be held at 9 a.m. on June 10. 

Chairman Susan Seward remarked, “There are seven localities in the Crater Health District, and the only two that were closed were Sussex and Surry.  The health department’s unilateral decision to close the Sussex Office has budgetary implications for the upcoming FY 21 budget.  The Sussex Board of Supervisors looks forward to having meetings in Richmond with our county attorney and State Health Department staff to figure out how we adjust our budget appropriation downward, given our budget situation, to insure we are spending taxpayers’ money on services delivered in Sussex County to Sussex County Residents.”

Next, over an hour was spent on questions concerning funding for the Waverly pool. Concern was expressed by board members in light of the fact that, in spite of infusions of cash from the board, the pool remains in a state of disrepair and this will make the third consecutive year that it has not opened. The subject of funding for the pool also was sent to the finance committee to consider, as board members including the chairman continued to express concerns about the safety and financial solvency of the pool. 

Finally, the subject of future staffing of the county animal shelter was discussed at length, and the determination was made to consolidate two part-time shelter attendant and ACO positions into one. 

Afterward, when asked how she foresees the budget advancing in light of all the questions raised during the meeting which will be advanced to the finance committee for consideration, Chairman Seward said, “Bottom Line, for the fourth year in a row, Sussex County will balance our budget and provide services to our taxpayers without raising taxes.” 

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