Still reeling from federal funding cutbacks, Leesburg's Town Council and staff have been hard at work trying to find ways to cut spending in certain areas.
As a result of its discussions, Vice-Mayor Dave Butler has proposed a new Community Outreach Commission to be implemented to voice public concerns about issues directly affecting the town's citizens.
According to Butler, the purpose of the new commission would be to represent concerns of youth, elderly, and other traditionally under-represented groups living in the town. It would act as an advocate group to increase the support of traditionally under-served groups, while identifying gaps in public transportation, identify youth programs and educate residents about town programs and benefits, among other things.
Butler presented the proposal as a result of recent discussions on how to alleviate the town's financial burden stemming from cuts in its federal funding.
“The proposal was prompted by further discussions we have had with funding around the federal funding going away for some of the bus routes and we are trying our best to get funding from other sources,” Butler said. “The thought was that there are some areas like this the residents care about and the council works on, but unlike most of the stuff council works on there is no commission these types of things filter through.”
According to Butler, the idea for a youth center has frequently come up during his time on council.
In his eyes there wasn't really a commission in place to work on the idea in conjunction with town staff.
“The bottom line is we don't have a commission in place for youth related activities [like the youth center] other than your standard parks and recreation types of sports,” Butler said. “These scenarios drove the thought of a commission that would focus on some groups of citizens that come to us and ask for things in the standard town government and commission structure.”
While Butler feels the town could benefit from the implementation of the commission, he acknowledged the Town Council is split on the idea.
“There are definitely some council members who are on board, but there are also council members who are concerned about this turning into a social services organization, which would duplicate what the county is currently doing,” Butler said. “That is not my intent at all, but that is a concern by council.”
The Town Council could initiate an ordinance change at their regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 26. If a vote takes place, there would be a public hearing March 12. If the ordinance passes following the public hearing, the commission could be created almost immediately.
"This commission is long overdue. For too long, groups like youth, elderly and the economically disadvantaged just haven't received the same level of support from the town council as others have,” Butler said in the proposal. “This commission can provide advocacy for bus routes, job fairs and town services so that all our residents can have the best quality of life Leesburg has to offer."