On Tuesday, Bedford County and the City of Bedford filed a joint Notice with the Virginia Commission on Local Government seeking a formal review of the Voluntary Settlement Agreement adopted by the Board of Supervisors and City Council on September 14, 2011. The Commission is a state agency consisting of former local government officials, who are charged with reviewing certain types of agreements between localities.
The City and County Agreement, which resulted from lengthy negotiations between the parties, provides for the now independent City of Bedford to become a traditional town located within and constituting a part of Bedford County. This change in governmental structure would result in a partial consolidation of services. Presently, the County provides many services to the City by contract. With a shift to town status, the delivery of many services would follow the typical pattern in Virginia with the County automatically providing its services to all County residents, including the residents of the new Town.
Specifically, the County would assume financial responsibility for public education, social services, health and mental health services, constitutional officers, an electoral board, library services, tourism services, building code enforcement, emergency dispatching and several other services. Like the current City, the new Town would be responsible for urban services within its boundaries, including police protection, fire protection, refuse collection and disposal, zoning and planning services, street maintenance, curb and gutter, sidewalk, storm drainage facilities, and recreational facilities.
Under Virginia law the Commission must conduct a public hearing at which interested citizens can comment on the proposal. After reviewing the Agreement, the Commission will then issue a report containing its findings and recommendations. Following additional public hearings, a special three-judge court will be convened to give final approval to the Agreement. The parties anticipate that the Commission, at its meeting next Tuesday, will schedule public hearings on the matter in Bedford during mid-May.
The ninety-five page document with supporting exhibits filed by the City and County provides a narrative summary of the provisions of the Settlement Agreement, an explanation of the financial impact upon the jurisdictions, and a discussion of the reasons why the parties believe that the proposed Agreement is in their interests and in the interests of the Commonwealth.
The filing includes a report by Dr. John E. Petersen, an economist and public policy professor at George Mason University, who was asked to determine the financial effect of the change to town status. Petersen concluded that the transition to town status should have a positive financial impact on both localities. While recognizing that many factors affect the finances of local governments, he estimated that the new Town would initially enjoy a net financial benefit of about $1.0 million annually. Similarly, he found that the County would receive a net benefit of about $5.5 million annually. Such surplus revenue for the County would largely be the result of the merger of the two school systems. He noted that, as an incentive for a school division consolidation, the State will allow the County to use a highly favorable "composite index" for 15 years. The special index will generate substantial additional funding of about $5.0 million per year that can be used to improve educational facilities and programs.
Officials from the City and the County point out that both parties should also benefit from a more efficient use of public resources. This action should also reduce competition for economic development, and provide a greater ability to engage in coordinated planning.
To see the full text of the documents submitted to the COLG, please click the link below. This is a large (60MB) PDF document and may take some time to download. The document also contains sub-documents in both 8.5x11 and 11x17 format, so you may need a larger format printer if you choose to print the entire document. If you'd like just the map of the proposed town boundaries, or just the agreement between the City and the County, follow the subsequent links below. The full COLG filing includes both of those documents, so there is no need to download all three.
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