We’ve interviewed for 3 days. My business is going flat-out and I’m running it via text message….I’d like to have cut down the number of interviewees but I was in the minority so the Council interviewed the majority of the short list. Can’t win ’em all…:) In talking to these various candidates from all over the country, you learn a lot about our beloved Virginia. You learn that Virginia has been credibly managed for a long time. You also learn that the General Assembly deserves a lot of credit for its past decisions regarding funding sources.
After talking to all of those folks, I believe that there are two advantages that localities in Virginia have versus some other states: the first is that we’re a right to work state (love that phrase). The stories that some of the candidates have related about their dealings with unions are amazing. One guy lost his job due to the police union – they took radio ads out opposing his budget proposal! Radio ads. His Council flipped on him and fired him. That’s amazing.
The second is that localities in VA have a diversified revenue stream (at least for now). One of our candidates related that in his state they have some sort of sales/use tax and revenue sharing from the state via an income tax. That’s it. Both are strictly related to economic activity. Therefore when economic activity plummeted during the Great Recession he had to crush his budget by 20%. In a single year. That’s just not good management but it’s what his state allows. Contrast that with Manassas where we have been able to keep Real Estate bills pretty stable and the uptick in business activity revenues have paid for raises, etc.
Another state has a system whereby school boards propose their annual budget and, in order for it to be approved, it has to survive a referendum. If it fails, and it usually does, the budget heads to the Council for resolution. That’s just madness. Why elect a school board if you’re going to require a referendum every year?
The diversified revenue thing is really important. When my business was still just a couple of years old we had several large clients that were title companies. This vertical is related to the real estate industry and you can imagine what happened to that market segment when the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Fortunately for us, we realized this as a weakness and diversified our client base. Just good planning…and some luck.