In ‘State of the County,’ York accents economic development and transportation successes
Speaking to a business-focused crowd of nearly 200 at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event, York (R-At Large) touted key accomplishments from the current board, including the county's heightened financial commitment to easing congestion on local roadways; expanding the local Department of Economic Development, which helped create more than 5,000 jobs in fiscal 2013 and kept county unemployment around 4 percent, according to York; and the re-affirmation of the county's triple-A bond rating, something the chairman said has saved the county millions on its borrowing costs.
“When I look at everything that has been done [under the current Board of Supervisors], it's just amazing how much work we've been able to do,” York said.
The chairman was re-elected to the nine-member Board of Supervisors in 2011 alongside eight other Republicans, seven of which were new to the board.
On transportation, York praised his current colleagues for their willingness to support a new policy that sends 2 cents of every county tax dollar toward roads, rails and buses. The county currently has more than $735 million in its six-year capital improvement plan for transportation projects, York said, with those funds coming from local and state governments and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
Some specific road upgrades York mentioned were the interchange at Belmont Ridge Road and Route 7, improvements along Waxpool Road, connecting missing links on both Riverside Parkway and Gloucester Parkway and completing Pacific Boulevard between Nokes Boulevard and Russell Branch Parkway.
York's presentation came nearly two months after the Board of Supervisors finalized the county's nearly $2 billion fiscal 2015 budget. The supervisors' allocation to Loudoun County Public Schools fell nearly $37 million short of the School Board's adopted budget, something that drew the ire of educators and LCPS advocates. Still, the Board of Supervisors' total appropriation to the school district was a nearly $70 million increase from the previous fiscal year, something the chairman stressed.
In his speech, York noted that this year's budget shortfall with the schools was not, contrary to some outcry, “one of the largest" of late. In 2009, for instance, the budget gap was nearly $49 million, and in 2011 there was a $54 million shortfall, York said.
“I think we're seeing a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the pressure for how much money we're having to fork out for the infrastructure of the schools,” he said, speaking about near-term growth within LCPS.
Back on the economic front, York noted the county's unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, which is well below the national average. Significant bolsters for the local economy touched on by the chairman included the forthcoming Metrorail expansion into Ashburn, the aforementioned beefing-up of the county's economic development efforts and continued growth at Dulles International Airport.
The county plans to consistently be involved in accommodating and easing the growth of the Dulles International Airport, the chairman noted, adding the airport is a major employer and boon in the county.
“This airport is not stagnant … their plan is to grow the airport. The Board of Supervisors plan is to help the airport to grow,” York said.
A major facet of the county York did not touch on during his speech was the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office and crime. On the heels of a fatal shooting in the Town of Purcellville earlier in the week, two recent stabbings, four domestics murders in 2014 and a couple pedestrian deaths on roadways, the chairman mentioned public safety only in economic terms, speaking about the county's combined professional-volunteer fire and rescue system.
The Board of Supervisors appropriated $76 million to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office budget in fiscal 2014 and nearly $60 million to the Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management Department.
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