Budget Battles in Prince William
Nearly 100 people spoke at a hearing last night on the Prince William County budget. Although many people thought the county's illegal immigration policy would dominate the testimony, the crackdown took a back seat to firefighters, who showed up in droves.
Several firefighters implored the Board of County Supervisors to fully fund this year's proposed budget, which upgrades the department to regional and national standards. The updates were prompted in large part by the death of firefighter Kyle R. Wilson last year.
"This budget was driven by one priority and that was safety," said Adam Mowry, a career firefighter. "We need to catch up. Funding anything less would be nothing short of irresponsible."
Several people spoke out against the proposed 21.3-cent increase in the county's tax rate. Supervisors advertised the tax rate at $1 for each $100 of assessed value. If adopted, it would boost average homeowner tax bills by 8.25 percent in the coming budget year.
County employees asked the board to make sure incentive pay is included in the budget. Nonprofit groups want to make sure the board matching funds aren't cut. Some citizens asked supervisors not to pay for illegal immigration measures, which would cost $6.4 million in the first year.
"Set aside political ambitions and agendas and do what is best for the citizens of this county," Nancy Escue said. "Funding this resolution jeopardizes money that should be used for human services. We simply cannot afford it."
Still, some residents said the program, which went into effect March 3, is already working. "By continuing the implementation of the resolution, we are taking back our community and making it safer by removing criminals," Jeff Williams said.
The board voted last fall to direct officers to check the citizenship or immigration status of suspects they think might be in the country illegally. Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the budget later this month.
-- Kristen Mack
April 8, 2008; 12:38 PM ET
Categories: Kristen Mack , Prince William
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