Isle of Wight residents ‘Stand Up 4 Schools’

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, April 23, 2016

The public hearing on Thursday for Isle of Wight County’s proposed $71.8 million budget attracted an audience that spilled from the boardroom into the hall. Many residents made their thoughts clear by wearing ‘Stand Up 4 Schools’ buttons, and also spoke before the Board of Supervisors.

Laya Dempsey of the Newport District said she was “excited about both school and supervisor’s boards. I’m hoping this new start will see a change in the paradigm of the two pitted against one another. Please support the school budget fully.”

Christi Chatman of Smithfield said, “Our children truly are our future. This budget is the beginning of a long-term plan.”

Also echoing support were Tonya Hemley, Rex Williams, Shelley Spears and even Dr. James Thornton, the school superintendent. His proposed budget, presented earlier this year, is $54.4 million for the next fiscal year.

“I’m excited about Isle of Wight schools,” he said. “There are many dedicated individuals leading the way.”

Schools were not the only budget item that received love from the public. The first speaker, Maj. James R. Clarke Jr., championed Sheriff Mark Marshall’s funding request for five additional deputies. In the chief deputy’s prepared remarks, he said, “By funding these positions we can be sufficient in delivering professional, responsive law enforcement services to our citizens. Since Sheriff Marshall took office in 2012, it was evident that there were deficiencies in regards to manpower. There were and still remains significant gaps in coverage and response to calls within the county.”

He noted that with continued growth in the county, there is more vehicle traffic and more calls for service.

“Response times are becoming longer and because of manpower shortages the deputy’s safety and welfare of citizens are being jeopardized,” Clarke said, adding that deputies are often required to move from one zone to another to cover vacancies.

He presented a redrawn map coverage that features a new district for Carrollton, which “will enhance response times and more reasonable shift resources to ensure in widespread coverage. The new district will now be 39 percent of the population, 10 percent of the land mass, and 41 percent of the residential homes. Approving these five positions will not only benefit the Carrollton area, but the entire county.”

Tim Kretch of Windsor also spoke on behalf of the sheriff.

“I I can remember when there were only two deputies,” Kretch said. “Give careful consideration to the police departments and fire departments.”

Jenny Bailey, director of Blackwater Regional Library thanked the board for its support, “which will ensure we’ll continue to provide services … we couldn’t do it without you.”

But not everyone was pleased at the suggested budget and said so.

William Johnson of the Windsor District said not to increase taxes to support the proposal.

“I know that’s a tough, tough thing to do. But it’s also a tough thing for residents,” he said, adding that in 10 years the tax rate should go back to the 2011 level, which drew audience applause.

Ken Wagar suggested cutting the budget by at least 10 percent, terminate the water deal, add no more debt, maintain rates and pay down debt. He also agreed tax rates should go down to 2011 levels.

Shelley Perry of Hardy District was of the same mind.

“My sentiments are real easy: no tax increase. I understand the sheriff’s request. Schools? That’s debatable. I’ve been here 22 years. Why can’t we get grants and loans for 911 system? I don’t have money to give away.”