DFA seeking budget increase from city

Published 6:31 pm Friday, February 7, 2020

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Last year, when faced with a shortfall in anticipated revenue, Franklin’s City Council chose to make numerous cuts to its 2019-2020 budget, including a $35,000 reduction in its funding of the Downtown Franklin Association – a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing and supporting the city’s historic downtown.

Now, with the city’s financial outlook having improved, the DFA is not only asking for its full funding to be restored, but also an increase.

On Monday, Jan. 27, during a City Council budget work session, DFA Executive Director Dan Howe and Jackie Newsome, vice president of the DFA’s Board of Directors, requested that the city’s contribution to the DFA for fiscal year 2020-2021 be increased to $120,000.

Prior to 2019, the city had historically given the DFA $55,000 each year, plus whatever revenue resulted from the city’s special 24-cent real estate tax on its downtown properties, which typically brings in another $55,000 annually. The requested $120,000, which Newsome confirmed includes the anticipated special tax revenue for the coming fiscal year, amounts to a roughly $10,000 increase over the city’s pre-2019 funding of the DFA.

“With only 1.5 paid employees, Downtown Franklin Association is an efficiently run, streamline operation,” Newsome said. “The $10,000 budget request increase over 2018 will allow Downtown Franklin Association to supplement the operational expenses required to manage Franklin’s Main Street program for the city.”

Despite last year’s budget cut, the DFA was still able to “deliver a full complement of events, thanks to DFA’s highly organized volunteers and committees, and the generous support of our sponsors, the City of Franklin Staff and citizens’ outstanding attendance,” Newsome confirmed.

Following the work session — during which the city also heard budget requests from Camp Community College, Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc., Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, STOP Inc., the Virginia Legal Aid Society, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and the Boys and Girls Club of Franklin — the City Council recognized David Rose, a representative of the city’s financial advisor, Davenport & Company. Rose confirmed that the city, by restructuring its existing debt service in September 2019, had freed up almost $3 million that would have otherwise have gone toward debt payments over the next 13 years. He, however, cautioned the Council not to use its unassigned general fund balance for any one-time capital needs or annual operational needs.

“A lot of folks may think, well, if you’ve got that money sitting there, shouldn’t it be back in the citizens’ pockets?” Rose said. “The reality is, if we don’t have that money sitting there, it will cost us far more money to borrow money [in the future].”