Supervisors send a message

Published 9:46 am Friday, January 27, 2012

Signs abound of a new era in Southampton County government.

The latest is the Board of Supervisors’ decision to return to the county schools only part of $1.6 million left over from the schools’ fiscal 2011 budget. By law, school budget surpluses must be transferred to the county, which historically has turned right around and given the money back to the schools.

No longer.

The Board of Supervisors, which has four new members as a result of anti-incumbent backlash in the November elections, voted unanimously Monday to return $1.1 million to the schools and to withhold the other half-million unless school administrators can demonstrate a compelling need for the money.

The guess here is that the schools will end up getting the money after pleading their case to the board. Supervisors simply were sending a message to the school board and administration that “business as usual” won’t cut it anymore in the difficult fiscal climate in which county government is operating. Every dollar will be scrutinized. The fiscal pain will be shared among all stakeholders.

The new supervisors ran on a collective platform of less spending and lower taxes. Monday’s vote was likely the first in a series of actions — both symbolic and significant — that will demonstrate their commitment to fulfilling that platform.